Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Say What? A gift from the heart!

Tis the season! Have you thought about what gift you might give to a child or adult with special needs? If not, I have some suggestions for you.

This can be a challenge depending on the type of disability involved. For starters, it is important to be informed and consider abilities, limitations and sensory needs. If you don’t know, ask. In the case of my granddaughter, anything auditory is something she enjoys; music, books, videos.
A safe bet, and a wonderful gift in my opinion, is an experience; one that requires your personal time. This can be a simple activity or an outing that you and your child (or grandchild, niece, nephew or friend) can enjoy together and one in which they can participate. These experiences could be an hour outing, an afternoon activity, a day trip or even a short vacation.

You might consider a museum, a concert, an appropriate movie, the park, the zoo or perhaps even the mall. You might share a meal, an ice cream, or a hot chocolate before or after the main activity. To enrich the experience even more, perhaps the activity could involve a new mode of transportation for the child as well. Consider a ride on rapid transit, a bus or train, airplane, boat or ferry, or even a cab or limousine ride. This could be enriched even more by preparing the child beforehand by providing a related book or CD. For example, you might plan a day which includes the Nutcracker Ballet; understanding the story and becoming familiar with the music involved before the event will enrich the experience for the child and be part of your gift as well.

If you cannot do an outing, don’t exclude the simple gift of spending time together to celebrate the current holiday (whatever it is). Perhaps a craft, baking, gardening or cooking; making and wrapping gifts, a visit to a holiday park event, an outdoor concern, or even a trip to see Santa.

Let’s not forget that we can also encourage the child, or adult, to consider what gifts they may have to give; a poem, artwork, something handmade. My granddaughter recently gave the gift of her hair and was delighted that she accomplished her goal of growing her hair and donating it to Locks of Love for a “little girl with no hair”.

Most of all, your gift can have a dual purpose. Not only will the child enjoy a special outing with you, but the parents will enjoy it as well. Think about what you might do and give a gift from the heart!


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Say What? Eating Out

I recently made dinner reservations on a busy Friday night at Il Fornaio Restaurant in downtown San Jose and mentioned that one guest, my granddaughter, was in a wheelchair.
We arrived at the end of a long line of customers waiting to be seated. It was crowded; yet, when we announced ourselves we were promptly taken to our table in the main dining room (away from the kitchen). The table was ready with one chair removed. Adequate space was provided to manipulate the chair in and out of the area as well as room for me to assist Aimee with her coat. No easy task when space is limited.

The server spoke directly to Aimee and listened carefully when taking her order which included chopped, not sliced, pepperoni on her pizza. When the pizza arrived, just as ordered, she was delighted when he remembered her name. Aimee was able to enjoy and eat her meal without difficulty which, in turn, made it enjoyable for the rest of us as well.
Why is this important? Imagine being placed far from other diners in a dark corner of the restaurant, near a noisy kitchen or, worse, the restrooms. Imagine constantly being asked what the individual wants instead of speaking directly to them. Imagine a child so stressed because of banging dishes that she cannot eat. Imagine being bumped continually by servers, or guests, while struggling to drink from a cup. No, this is not just my imagination, but the reality of what happens all too often when dining out. Although Il Fornaio is not the only restaurant providing considerate service, it is a rare occasion when the entire dining experience is as enjoyable and without incident.

At one upscale restaurant in Fresno we were actually denied eating in the dining room or patio but instead were escorted down a long hall to an empty banquet room where we were told “we would be comfortable”. Needless to say we did not eat there.

FOUR STARS to Il Flornaio Restaurant for their considerate service to the disabled. Their example of dignity and respect towards all customers sets the standard of service for all restaurants to follow.

What experiences have you encountered when eating out with a disabled child or adult?