Little things can make big difference

Published 12:45 pm Friday, March 17, 2017

My son, DJ, has mitochondrial disease. He is nonverbal and has an awkward gait among other things.

I am used to the peculiar looks we get in public. They are usually the result of an overexcited DJ jabbering excessively loud.

DJ has personality. That personality combined with his disability make eating out with him more like a game of Russian roulette.

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He can be extremely good, be so bad you may never want to eat again or be any range in between.

So, we tend to stick to places where DJ has a good track record. The majority of them involve a lot of TVs.

In addition to testing DJ’s temperament to the restaurant, we have to weigh how the staff will respond to DJ. We have had about every response imaginable.

Some people will go out of their way to talk to him and ask questions. Others treat him as if he has the bubonic plague and fear looking at him will infect them. Still, others have rude questions or remarks.

The other night, we ventured out of our comfort zone and took him to Olive Garden for the first time. We were seated in the café area of the restaurant next to the bar.

This worked out perfectly because DJ could see Nicholasville Road and watch the cars as he loves to do. If DJ is occupied with watching cars or a TV, we can usually have our meal in relative peace, but that’s not a guarantee.

By far the waitress at Olive Garden was the best I have ever seen. She was attentive to DJ but not overly so, making him uncomfortable. She spoke directly to him then waited for us to answer.

When I explained he wouldn’t be ordering because he can’t chew, she informed me they had mashed potatoes, something I didn’t expect at an Italian restaurant. But it was when she set him up to play games at the table that things took an unexpected turn.

She brought over a computer used to order, call the server, pay or play games.

DJ decided to play kids trivia. I read him the questions and his choices for answers and he selected the answer he wanted. Each time he was right, his enthusiasm grew and his applause for himself got louder. The game showed the names of the other players on the side and what their score was. Out of five players, DJ continued to win and he was loving it.

This may not seem like such a big deal to some. But to special needs parents, it is huge.

You would be shocked at the number of rude people we encounter. Having a waitress go out of her way to make your child’s experience the best it can be is nothing short of phenomenal and it hits us special parents right in the heart.

The next time you think you can’t make a difference or what you do doesn’t matter, think again.

Your little every day actions can make a big difference.

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