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Monday, January 18, 2010

Children with Special Needs

I shall be diplomatic now because this isn’t my story to tell.

My son, the birthday boy and host is busy, occupied, as we order our drinks in the restaurant. His friend makes two strenuous attempts to request a beverage from the server. His voice is as clear as a bell and quite as piercing, but the message has failed to penetrate. I intervene:- “yes he’d like half Pepsi and half Sprite please?”
The server is perplexed and distracted as he mines for information. From a distance we look like any other party of 12. Close up, it’s different. It takes a different format in each child. Collectively it can be disconcerting. It’s as if we each have three heads, fluent in Swahili.
“Can you do that? Mix Pepsi and Sprite in the same glass please?”
“Er….well…..um?” Throughout our exchange, our young friend repeats his request in a loop of ever increasing frustration, since my translation appears equally as useless.
“Do you think that would be ok.?” I ask as I try to arrest the server’s attention.
“Is he er…..does he…….is he…….does he have…..special needs?”
“Yes Sprite and Pepsi, mixed in the same glass please, special order.”
“Right.” He disappears without a murmur, to return shortly afterwards. We go round the table for the food order, until we reach our same young friend, “chicken nuggets please and no fries.”
“Would you like fries with that?”
“No fries.”
“It comes with fries. Would you like fries or one of these other choices, see at the bottom of the page?” Persists the server.
“No fries.”
“Would you like something else?”
“No, no fries.”
“You don’t want fries?”
Our young friend turns to me for full on eye contact, the faulty conduit, gives up on the server, to explain what should not need any further explanation. With an electrically charged tone of voice that carries over 10 tables in the noisy restaurant, “don’t give me fries, don’t give me anything with potato products or I’ll vomit.”
The server flinches, stabs himself in nose with his pen - a gasp and a laugh of relief as he skuttles off to the kitchen with mirth. My daughter watches him leave without initial comment, until she is quite certain he is out of ear-shot, “I never thought you need good listening skills to be a server.”
“It a much more highly skilled job than most people realize, at least if you want to do it well.”
“I wouldna believed it if I hadna heard it for myself.”

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