Thursday, 16 February 2017

The disassembled abandoned cake - autism eating out and about

Lonely cupcake

We were having a family day out at a well known visitor attraction. Nothing too exciting or expensive but a day out that involved catching a train, a little walk and a wander about. Apart from a bit of jumping and squealing the kids were having a good day.  And overall I'd say it was a good day... unless you were the disassembled abandoned cake.  And it's the cake that makes me wonder how can I do the right thing?

Like many of our days out, the weather wasn't perfect.  It was bright but a bit cold which I suppose is nothing unusual for this time of year.  As a family we tend to find things quieter when it's a bit cold or a bit wet.  We're the people driving to the theme park if it looks like it might rain for a bit.

Quieter usually means a bit more space and less crowds and this works well when two of your three kids has autism.  Everything was going well on our day out and then not long before we thought we'd leave, Jane declared that she was really hungry.

Honestly, I don't know where she puts it.  It's 2pm and she hasn't been to loo yet.  She's had a cartoon of juice and two bags of Sun Bites, plus a bit more.  Thanks to Jane's 'starvation' as she called it, the remaining food in the rucksack would no longer be enough to last the kids all the way home. We were at an outdoor-ish attraction and as we were all be getting a bit cold (me in particular - I always feel it) I head to one of two eatery type places we past earlier.

As I walked up to the glass door and peered inside I felt a bit of a sinking feeling.  We usually time meals when we are out to avoid key meal times (eating at 2 or 3pm instead of 1pm for example).  But as it was cold and the other eatery had mostly outdoor space, this one was... well heaving.   There were people moving all over the place and I couldn't see a spare 'two seat' table never mind space for our five.

I scanned round through the glass towards the self serve food area.   Wrapped sandwiches, hot meals,  'No chance,' I smirk to myself.  Then I noted a large cake type section with only few people there.

"Ok, that's a possibility," says I to the other half nodding in it's general direction.  And we headed in.

Our first issue was the clotted cream.

Yes it's delicious, but it also looks a lot like ice-cream when it's in large catering tubs.

I'd been holding David in my arms since we approached the glass doors and now inside he was leaning erratically, and mostly towards the scones and clotted cream.

"Want cake?" I asked him.

"Creeee," he said while excitedly signing 'ice-cream'.

He was definitely a bit miffed that I'd denied him what he thought was ice-cream.  But I managed to convince him to look at cakes.  The trouble is that cakes come in all shapes and sizes,  colours and tastes. People with autism can like sameness, it makes my boys feel safe.

So while Jane spotted a cupcake that looked like a giant pink and yellow flower (great that will really fill her up thinks me) it takes the boys a while to absorb what's in front of them.  Too many options are scary. The wrong options aren't great either.

I spotted something that looked like a Victoria Sponge Cake.  That could work for David and I pointed it to him.  He went to grab it.  As the place was self service, I lowered his hand and got the cake slice. I separated one of the (not very big) slices and popped it on a plate. David eyed it suspiciously - he was just tall enough for his nose to pop above the counter.

Meanwhile Anthony, our other autistic son, had made his choice.  He'd done an excellent job of falling back onto a default.  If he's not sure - he'll look for something made of chocolate. And so a large chocolate muffin sat next to a beautiful flower like cupcake on the tray.... next to the Victoria Sponge look a like.

David was staring at the cake.  It looked like he wanted to touch the cream filling on the sponge cake. That's when I saw a bit of the filling at the pointy end of the slice wasn't there.  It looked like it might have got dragged out when another piece had been removed off the original cake. It wasn't right... it was broken.

David started to cry and tried to scrape the rest of the cream filling out of the cake.

"It's ok, no cream?" I said, and grabbed the cake slice again. David watched as I carefully cut down both sides of the icing filling and removed it in one long piece and sat it down to the side. I shoved the two pieces of cake back together.

"Can I have the slice?" a voice asked.

I turned to see a boy about nine or ten years old.  I handed him the cake slice.  He took a slice of the same cake and put it onto a plate.  He carefully put the cake slice back down and skipped back to his mother who was waiting in the growing queue at the checkout. How perfectly normal that is for some families.

It was then that David noticed there was also the finest layer of jam inside his cake too.

He started to wave his hand "nah nah nah" (that translates to 'no no no' in David).

How can I describe to you what it must be like for David to see and think he has to eat a 'wrong' cake? In his upset he started to poke and pick out the chocolate chips on top of Anthony's muffin. "Hey," screamed Anthony.

"Anthony, calm down..." (breath, Ann, just breath)

grabbing a strawberry

I picked David back up as he was now trying to touch lots of cakes, toppings etc and I looked at my husband.

"If this doesn't go wrong in the next few minutes it will happen in the queue or at the table."

"Ok, let's leave" he shrugged.

I looked over towards the till area.  Only one of the two tills was open, the other was behind a no entry door.  The queue of people with trays for the till looked like a swarm.

"What about the cakes?" I said.

As I looked back over at him I saw he was also looking at the queue.  I didn't even have any cash.

"Leave them."

My husband picked up Jane who started crying... "but what about my flower cake?"

And as we went back out the glass doors, I saw an employee appear with a new cake for the cake table and look at the mess we'd left behind.  The disassembled and abandoned cake.

A few minutes later we were the only people sat at the freezing cold outside food stall happily eating the only things they were serving (thank goodness that included brownie).  I was so relieved things hadn't escalated into a meltdown I'd even forgotten to use our discount code for the food.

This small cake event had little impact on our day.  It was a good day.  We had no meltdowns, few tears, we had fun wandering about and looking at the attraction.  David skipped his way around town. We all safely got back on the train and treated ourselves to a cab from the station - where the three kids fell sleep across the back seat together.

But when David woke me in the middle of the night, as he does every night, I found myself feeling guilty about the disassembled cake. About not having paid for the food (I think I saw a tag by the disassembled cake which said £3.25 a slice!), about the mess we'd made.  And I wondered what I could have done differently.  Effectively every incident is one I can learn from.  Adapt to make things better.

I mean it's effectively stealing right?  Or damaging property? It's easy to think one of us could have gone back in to the cafe and paid.  We once paid for 13 ice-lollies at an attraction booth until we unwrapped one that was the right shape for David.  But going back into the cafe to pay for the cakes is not something we would have found possible yet. David can't take the 'family unit' being broken up when we are out.  He goes into instant meltdown.  We've only just managed to be able to go to the toilet separately when we are out (don't try and fit five into a disabled loo if you don't have too).

Looking back it was either the 'it's too busy' or 'there's no ice-cream' moments that I should have listened to better.  Turned away at that point. But hindsight is a wonderful thing.

So I'll try not to get too hung up on the disassembled cake incident. Chances are the employee cleared the mess away and that was that.   If we go again, we can be a bit more prepared, and I'll remember that I need to pay for an extra couple of cakes.  But I'm afraid, conscience, short of sending the place a completely random cheque (I have no idea if I even still have a cheque book??), that's the best I can do right now. That can give my gorgeous boy a hug, no one really gets how well he coped when his world seemed to be collapsing.

What do you think?

54 comments:

  1. Oh no don't torture yourself with guilt about this. These things happen. You did the best you could with the cards you were dealt at the time. It sounds like you're an incredible mum - so in tune with your kids' needs and wants.

    I'm so glad you had a lovely outing. Time out with the family is so important (although I'm always cold too so I totally feel your pain on this score!)

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  2. Forget about the cake place/cake/staff/money etc - you did what was right for your family, and in the grand scheme of things I'm sure they can cope with the loss of some cake! The difficulty is, and I totally get it, that no-one can "see" your boys' autism, so it's hard for people to understand. But it's not about people, it's about you and your family. A lot of people would avoid going somewhere like that altogether, so I admire you! #ablogginggoodtime

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  3. I can relate to this - we've been seated in restaurants and cafes and realised it was all going to go horribly wrong if we stayed. We've also had lots of situations where Edward has had so much difficulty choosing what to have that he has taken ages and ages to order, he's oblivious to the business of the staff and the annoyance of the customers in the queue behind him! I find those moments quite stressful. You did the right thing by the sounds of it! #spectrumsunday

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  4. We have been in many situations where he stayed we would have just made everything a million times worse. It can be hard when you have other children who you worry you are letting down but rest assured they understand. You absolutely did the right thing.
    #spectrumsunday

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  5. I hope you can forget the cake. I get where you're coming from but in the grand scheme of things I think you made the right choice (maybe the only choice). Could you email the cafe and explain, if it would make you feel better? #MMBC

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  6. You definitely did the right thing and I'm sure the lost cake was much more preferable to a complete meltdown for everyone. #MMBC

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  7. Aww! Bless you! You did the right thing for your family...I wouldn't worry about the cake. I bet the cafe wasn't even bothered! #MMBC

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  8. You did the right thing and something we all would have done in your situation. How many people have scurried away when their children have broken things in a shop or left a mess when their child has peed on the floor somewhere and they were too embarrassed to say anything?! A couple of pieces of cake are nothing and I am sure you are the only one that is still thinking about it now...they will be long forgotten. Don't beat yourself up :-) #postsfromtheheart

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  9. I think you made the best decision you could, given the circumstances. Don't look back to "what ifs". #MMBC x

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  10. Oh dear lovely but please don't fret with guilt. I think you did the right thing xx
    Thanks for linking to #ablogginggoodtime

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  11. Hi Ann, I think you have to focus on the positives and that was there was no meltdown. As easy as it is for me to say you did what you had to do for the sake of keeping your family calm. If it does bother you overly, you could maybe write and explain to the establishment, which may help make them aware of how autism affects families in the moment.

    Thank you for linking up with the #MMBC.

    XX

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  12. It sounds like leaving was the right thing and you all still managed to have a good day regardless. I'm sure we've all been in situations like that at some point and I'm sure it's not worth you worrying about it too much #kcacols

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  13. I think you did what was best at the time. No harm done and you had and did manage the situation. Dont even give it another thought:)
    Mainy
    #KCACOLS

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  14. I've now been to a number of restaurants where kids have had the noise cancelling headphones on. I like that families are managing to eat out (and I'm sure most people can understand if it goes pearshaped occasionally)

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  15. As others have said, you can only do what you feel is right. I know what it's like trying to struggle with three kids at the best of times, and ours are actually pretty well behaved! #KCACOLS

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  16. sounds like you definitely made the right decision for your family at that moment in time, incredibly hard to know if we're all doing the right thing, Youre obviously doing an incredible job for your 3 children and that's all that matters. #KCACOLS

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  17. Sending love. Having experienced a very similar incident with Number One about the 'wrong' lemon drizzle cake - which despite being her normal favourite- was too lemony I can totally appreciate why you did what you did. Ours was only a month into dating the Other Half, and he really must have wondered what he had let himself in for that day! The coffee machine was too loud, the rain was too wet and the cake was too lemony. The day was all wrong. I am glad that despite the wrong cake you all stil managed to have a good day. I'm sure the cafe understood. Sometimes we all have to do what we have to do to get through the day. Thank you so much for raising awareness and sharing this post with us at #PostsFromTheHeart

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  18. That was a difficult situation and I can completely understand how it could all go pear-shaped in that way. Don't beat yourself up about it. You were looking after your kids and doing the best you could. #kcacols

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    1. Yep, it felt that in a few more minutes, he'd have a meltdown on our hands! Thanks for your understanding.

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  19. Aw, this must've been a tough situation for all of you. I totally understand it's usually little things that make autistic children (and adults like me) go into meltdown. he fact that it was too busy and his favorite food wasn't there are both big surprises/changes to an autistic child. I can relate. Like, when I have something in mind, I can't get it out of my head until I get my way. It isn't about being purposefully selfish, like your David wasn't acting selfishly either. It's our need for sameness.

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    1. I never blame David for how he acts in these type of situations.. he is simply trying to cope and I can't and won't blame him for that. All I can do it try and help him through what he's dealing with and if it's not working today, take him away from what's causing him pain. Thanks so much for commenting.

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  20. I don't have an autistic child but I can totally understand meltdowns. Even just seeing the queue is ridiculous and changing my mind. I think you did the best you could. And in all honesty the people that paid their £3.25 a slice will have more than covered rhe cost of making the cake. Let's face it, they are already in profit on the sale of the first slice. If it's a large corporation to they can probably afford it.

    Don't beat yourself up. You sound like a decent human being. Give yourself some credit for holding it all together as well as you do.

    #KCACOLS

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  21. I have been in this situation many time where things don't go to plan and you have to cut and run or risk a meltdown - i would choose cut and run every time. Sometimes you just don't have a choice, even when you have disassembled a slice of cake.

    #kcacols

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  22. You are open and honest. You are great not only in how you parent but also how you raise awareness and make others feel less alone with their challenges

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  23. You totally did the right thing! My son is autistic, so I can understand! x #KCACOLS

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  24. You definitely did the right thing. Well done for writing about it. #kcacols

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  25. You handled it really well by the sounds of things. You did the right thing and kept it all together to avoid a melt down - no one would have done anything different I don't think #kcacols

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  26. Don't worry about it so much. Be glad for your day out, the cake will count as shrinkage for the cafe and no harm done. #kcacols

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  27. I think it sounds like you very much did the right thing. #KCACOLS

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  28. That member of staff has probably seen a lot worse :) Definitely don't feel guilty. You read the situation and took the right action #KCACOLS

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    1. Imaginations now running wild with what else the staff may have seen in the past......?!?!?!?

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  29. I shouldn't worry, I'm sure if the circumstances were different, you would have paid in the usual way - these things happen and I'm sure the staff would have agreed had they been party to the incident #KCACOLS

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  30. Sounds like you did the right thing. Please don't feel guilty #KCACOLS

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  31. My brother is autistic and growing up we had many days out like this. He is slightly better now but crowded spaces are still a no go! #KCACOLS

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  32. I wouldn't feel guilty about the cake, you have to do what's right for you and your family, that's all any of us can do! #KCACOLS

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  33. I'm surprised that an event like this didn't put a dampener on the day but that just goes to show how well you both handled the sitation. You were right to leave and who cares about not paying. Don't let guilt take you over when you absolutely did the right thing for you family #kcacols

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    1. Thanks Ger. I think we are used to coping with some things that maybe would spoil the day if it happened to other people. I suspect if we had stayed that's exactly what may have happened. Sometimes living with autism means knowing when to cut your loses, heck sometimes that's just going out with kids! Thanks for commenting

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  34. Oh those moments. They can be so hard. Weighing out the best of two not great options sucks. I would have done the same thing!!! My
    Oldest has high functioning autism and when he gets fixated on something it can be so challenging. Leaving the situation is usually best for us too.

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  35. its not easy - i think you did your best in the situation you were in, don't be too hard on yourself x #kcacols

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  36. Sending love. It isn't easy. We have had times of apologising profusely, leaving money for shattered crockery and escaping as quickly as possible. I always hope that we live in times where more people understand autism and that they are possibly understanding that there was a reason for the whole situation. #KCACOLS

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  37. I would be exactly the same! I'd feel really really guilty for days about it, but the main thing is you had a great day and your son was okay :) #KCACOLS

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  38. Please don't beat yourself up over the cakes. You did what was best for you and your family in that moment. I am glad that you still had a good day x #KCACOLS

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  39. I wouldn't worry too much about the cake, even though it's hard not to feel guilty. I'm sure they would understand. xx #KCACOLS

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  40. Yes, I don't think you should worry about the cake too much. I don't think anyone would have minded if they knew the circumstances, and you did the best thing you could do with the situation you had. There are more important things than a bit of broken cake, and I'm glad that things worked out okay in the end. #KCACOLS

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  41. This is exactly how E would react to something like a cake not being 'right' or expected. Exactly. We become experts at predicting these little things that we become aware of that don't even register to a lot of people. You did exactly the right thing. Anyone who thinks differently doesn't understand the situation properly. If I had a pound for every one of those 'Shall we just go?" moments... #SpectrumSunday

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  42. Don't worry about the cake, the employee would have come out, possibly huffed about having the clean up the cake but it would have been forgotten within a minute, cake costs £3.25 a slice to cover the costs of ones that are dropped or fall apart #KCACOLS

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  43. Don't worry about the cake, these things happen, and thank you for sharing you account so honestly. My little boy recently had a meltdown because someone had given him chocolate biscuits and I had to take them off him as he eats a dairy free diet. It's not the same, I know, but the looks I got off the other parents as I was trying to wrestle the biscuits from him made me feel awful. I almost felt I needed to get on a box and explain the situation to the whole room! #KCACOLS

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  44. We have often had to abandon ship! You totally did the right thing! x
    PS. What you need is a Changing Places Toilet to fit the whole family unit in! That could make outings easier! I know a few people campaigning for those ;-)
    Thank you so much for linking with my accessibility stories #AccessLinky

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  45. I remember being a child with that problem, and how confounded expectations for even the smallest thing felt like everything was dropping away beneath my feet. I still struggle with that somewhat.

    And I'm in the process of unpicking how I've been affected long-term by not having been met with understanding, so thank you for being so ready to see the situation from his point of view; it really does give him the best chance in life.

    I'm not sure what I'd have done, given that the family unit couldn't be split up. If you want to send payment afterwards, I don't know if such places even have facility to put that on their books. I guess having a bit of extra cash in your hand in future just in case could be the way to go.

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