Message from Ernie Swanson Jr. ~ Our daughter Abbie was diagnosed with Autism at the age of two. We know first hand how difficult it is to go out as a family. People with Autism can have many different sensory issues. Bright lights, loud music, large crowds can cause them to have melt downs. Some are even prone to wander and have loud outbursts. This causes families to basically isolate themselves. We know many families that have never been able to take their child out to a restaurant. Simply because of the fear and embarrassment that come from feeling that you are being judged by other people.
Five years ago we started having Abbie’s Communication Interaction Disorder class (CID) come in to the restaurant for a field trip. We would give them a tour and let them make and eat a pizza. It quickly became the most popular field trip of the year. In the back of our minds, we were trying to come up with something more we could do to have a meaningful impact on the Autistic community.
This past summer, my wife, Sheila, went to a retreat hosted by Kate Swenson. Kate is a local Blogger that has an Autistic son. She is an advocate for inclusion of children with special needs. After Sheila returned from the retreat my entire family was inspired to make a difference.
My mom, Kris Swanson, came up with the idea to dedicate one of our party rooms to Abbie. We have made the room sensory friendly. We installed a dimmer switch so the lights can be turned down and the music can be turned down or off. The room will also give families the opportunity to dine in a judgment free area so that these kids are able to just be themselves.
Megan Lovin recently scheduled Kate Swenson to dine in our restaurant as an influencer. It went great. She is going to schedule a Judgement Free Dinner in the room. Her post on Instagram has been up for 3 days and has 4,697 likes 221 positive comments. My wife's personal Facebook post has 112 likes, 47 positive comments and 12 shares and 1 invite to be on a WCCO radio talk show.
We pray that this room will be a blessing to special needs families for years to come. We hope that other Franchisees will consider putting a sensory friendly room in their restaurants.
Abbie’s Room "A special Place For All Friends"
Thank you to the entire Swanson family for serving your community in this way!