Lehigh Valley

'Autism Eats' ensures every family enjoys a meal out

EMMAUS, Pa. - Inside the dining room of Italiano Delite in Emmaus, there are sounds of delight.

"I think it's fantastic!" says Dad Alan Jensen-Sellers

This is 'Autism Eats.'

"We don't have to constantly apologize or explain why he might be crying," says Mom Teri Jensen-Sellers, speaking of her 5-year-old son.

'Autism Eats' was started by the husband and wife of an autistic child in the Boston area. They wanted to give autism families a chance to go out to eat, without any stares or any judgment.

Karen Williams is the Vice President of the Autism Society of Lehigh Valley. They serve more than 100 families in the area.

"Typical families take that for granted - just going out to dinner," she says. "A lot of our families don't have that opportunity so this brings everybody together."

"I was just relieved that someone understood," Teri says.

The Jensen-Sellers family, who recently was asked to leave a restaurant when their autistic 5-year-old son Lind began crying, are especially happy with this idea, because they - like other families surrounding them Wednesday night - have swallowed tough moments.

"Society tends to ostracize people who are different," Teri says, adding "And I really look at autism awareness or special needs awareness as the next step in civil rights."

Her husband Alan adds, "Everybody who's here is living that common experience, so if my kid decides to start running around, it's fine" 

"That's exactly what we're looking for!" Karen says.

And that is why they intend to continue, tackling autism awareness, one bite at a time.

This is only the second Autism Eats event that's been held in the Lehigh Valley, but Karen says it will not be the last. 

More information about Autism Eats is available online

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