South Australian woman’s bid for autism friendly dining

URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL URL

An autistic woman has created Australia’s first sensory-friendly dining experience so people like her can enjoy dinner out.

Deanna Flynn Wallis had years of difficulty concentrating in school, problems with sensory processing, and could particularly identify with a cousin who had been diagnosed with autism.

But it was only when she began working with autistic children that she was able to make her own diagnosis.

Two years have passed since being diagnosed with autism and ADHD, and Mrs. Wallis finds it particularly difficult to eat out.

“I always feel completely overwhelmed and very anxious about going out, especially when I’m ordering from a menu that I know doesn’t suit me or when I’m with people who aren’t necessarily understanding,” she told news.com.au.

Many people with autism have sensory problems related to light, sounds, and the texture of clothing and food.

Her family owns the Oak and Iron Tavern in Mount Barker, South Australia, and she began thinking about how she could make her pub more friendly for people like herself.

That’s when she came up with the idea of ​​“building your own plate.”

She worked with Autism SA and the Australian Hotels Association to find out if she was the only person who had sensory needs when eating and dining out. When she found out she wasn’t, she organised a sensory-friendly, quiet pub dinner.

“There are chicken nuggets and chips, a staple in the autism community. Everyone loves chicken nuggets,” she said.

“And there’s another standard option: a fantastic beef pie slow cooked for six hours and chips.”

Guests can choose from a variety of protein options such as grilled chicken, plain sausages or vegan nuggets, paired with carbohydrates such as plain penne pasta or plain mashed potatoes and a variety of vegetables.

All options are presented on a divided plate so nothing touches, and there are various condiments and sauces on the table so everyone can add whatever they like to their meal.

The Oak and Iron Tavern is preparing for its second sensory friendly quiet dinner, held once a month.

Guests dine in a private event area with a separate bar and entrance.

There is no music and there are sensory toys on the table.

The other venues, the Arkaba Hotel and the Brompton Hotel, also offer quiet dinners but do not have a sensory-friendly menu.

“It was overwhelming for me to see the reactions on social media of people finally feeling seen and healthy,” Ms. Wallis said.

“We have been contacted by pubs from other states asking if they have any guidance on how to put together a sensory menu.

“At our first dinner last month, we had a beautiful mother and daughter from Adelaide. They hadn’t been out for a year and a half because there is so much anxiety associated with going out.

“And the fact that they came to us, felt safe and heard and comfortable, was so nice to me that they chose us for this first trip.”

Ms Wallis said she knew it would be popular but underestimated how big it would become, adding it was a validation of her own path.

A sensory-rich, quiet lunch is planned for the next school holidays, coupled with a screening of Despicable Me 4, as Mrs Wallis owns the Wallis Cinema, which is next door to the pub.

Leave a Comment