By MARY JANE and ALAN SMITH
I will be honest. I never really paid attention to what Autism was until I was approached by a couple of my sisters about the possibility of my baby having Autism. I had no idea on which direction to go, I had been taking her to the doctor and was always sent home without any answers. I was approached by a friend who shared with me her concerns, she decided to step out of the box and tell me which way to go to which I will be forever grateful to her for her direction. Hence started our long journey into the world of Autism and it has been an educational one to say the least.
We learned Autism is not picky about which family it decides to join, it doesn’t matter what color skin you have whether you have lots of money or very little. Autism picked our family and you quickly learn where you can go and where you can’t. Everything we do is a learning opportunity, we continue to take her into public again and again so that she can learn to go into different places, meet different people experience different smells and taste different things. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
Because she is non-verbal, she can be very loud and rambunctious at times for she gets frustrated when we don’t understand what she wants hence the screaming and hollering and major meltdowns begin. I can’t begin to count the places we have walked out of carrying our meal in to-go boxes and causing a scene to which I’m sure people would not soon forget us. We can be fine one minute and the next we don’t like the floor or how something sounds or smells or we just don’t like somebody making a sudden movement.
So, when I was asked to write something for Autism Awareness and to pick a place of business that I would say is autistic-friendly, I thought of several business in our area but I must say the first one to step up was The Little Princess Restaurant at Saunooke’s Village, owned and operated by Sam and Donna Ball. As one of the employees told us one day that every year we come back and our little girl has changed and it is as if they have gotten to watch her grow up.
Every time we go to The Little Princess restaurant, Donna always welcomes us and has even defended us at times. One time, things got really ugly and we couldn’t get out of the restaurant fast enough to satisfy one of the customers and Donna came to our defense. When we returned later, I teasingly and partly seriously asked her would you like us sit in back and hide. She said “No, you are not going to sit in back. You will sit up front and center and you will not hide!”
I have a lot of respect for Sam and Donna. Every time we return, she always asks us where we would like to sit to which we would be most comfortable. As time goes on we still get a little loud but nothing like the old days when we were really rough around the edges, before we went through Autism Boot Camp. If it is empty we almost always pick the same table and if they see us coming and our table is empty they get it ready for us.
Small things add up to really big things in my book. We have been going to this restaurant since our little girl was a baby, and they have probably seen it all but still welcome us back. We have since become comfortable in several businesses in our area, but Little Princess was the first to step up and welcome us, Autism and all, so we take our hats off to you Sam and Donna Ball and your staff at the Little Princess restaurant.