Boy With Autism Kicked Out of Friendly's Restaurant After Having Meltdown
When Teri Lyn Jensen-Sellers went to her local Friendly’s in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, she wasn’t anticipating the unfriendly way her son would be treated.
While waiting to be served, Lind, 5, who’s on the autism spectrum and is partially nonverbal, began having a meltdown. “Within five or seven minutes, the manager came over,” Jensen-Sellers told WFMZ, “and he says, ‘People are looking at you. Your child is crying excessively. You have to leave.’”
Hoping to stay at the restaurant, Jensen-Sellers tried explaining her son’s needs to the manager. “He was being very loud and he was crying for about seven minutes, and I understand that’s a long time, but when you are in transition with an autistic child, that may go on for 10 or 15 minutes,” Jensen-Sellers said. “Once they are calm, they could be good for three or four hours. I just needed more time.”
Unfortunately, she and her two sons were told they would be unable to stay at the restaurant, forcing them to leave. Jensen-Sellers says the incident was embarrassing and dehumanizing.
“First and foremost this was an unfortunate set of circumstances that took place in the Pottstown, Pennsylvania, restaurant,” Karen Burkholder, Friendly’s district manager, told The Mighty. “We have sincerely apologized to the family and have had a very important discussion regarding meeting the hospitality needs of children on the autistic spectrum.”
On Thursday, Burkholder spoke with Jensen-Sellers, promising additional sensitivity training for management teams so they are better equip to host families who have special needs. Friendly’s will also hold a fundraising event during World Autism Day in 2017, with funds benefitting the charity of Jensen-Seller’s choice.
“This experience for myself and my management teams, while difficult, will be one that we learn from, and become better at what we do, because of it,” Burkholder said.
Photo Credit: Billy Hathorn