Autism Awareness Month is supposed to be about celebrating the unique talents and characteristics of people on the autism spectrum, but one family says their month of celebration was rudely interrupted when a customer came into their restaurant barely a week into April and harrassed their 23-year-old autistic son, who works at the restaurant.
23-year-old Giacomo was pouring water for patrons at Vince’s Restaurant in West Sacramento and talking to himself about his favorite TV character, Thomas the Tank Engine, when a customer began complaining to the hostess about his behavior.
“‘Hey, there was this man walking back and forth talking about Thomas.’ The hostess told her he’s the son of the owner, he’s special needs. But that was not enough,” recalls Jackie llenas-Rossi, Giacomo’s mother, who runs the restaurant with her family.
After speaking with the hostess, the customer complained to her waitress as well. “She told her he’s special needs, he’s the owners’ kid a second time. That was still not enough,” says Jackie. “I said, ‘Giacomo, these people are uncomfortable; can you apologize?’ And he apologized, ‘I’m sorry I made you uncomfortable.'”
But, apparently, that still was not enough for this angry customer. When she left the restaurant, she took her rude comments to Facebook, dragging the restaurant and Giacomo through the mud with her strange summation of the incident.
“My first thought was he may be unpredictable or have explosive behavior around our small children,” the customer wrote. “If you are unfamiliar and see the owner’s son, he may or may not be harmless. I still don’t know.”
Giacomo’s family is hurt and confused by the comments made against their son, who is not aggressive or dangerous. they say they’ve never had an incident like this with him before.
“This was our first time that we saw someone being so negative, so angry, so different about our child,” says Jackie.
“When people say things on the internet like that, it creates these stereotypes that are really harmful for these people who aren’t dangerous, they’re just different,” says Giacomo’s sister. “This is the perfect example to shine light on how the autistic community wants people to not only become aware of autism but accepting of it. My brother feeling distressed, my mother feeling stressed, it wasn’t only a hit to our restaurant but to our family.”
We hope people use this opportunity to remember to be extra kind to someone with autism or other special needs. We’re all just doing the best we can, and there’s no need to make others feel bad for being a little different.Whizzco