Public Persecution: Acting as an advocate for a special needs child

It took me three months, but I finally wrote a letter to Golden Corral, the restaurant that accused me of starving and neglecting my child due to her health issues and small size. This was the first time anyone had ever humiliated and hurt me over my daughter’s special needs. Here’s a copy of the letter I sent. I feel sick even thinking about everything that happened that night. I am completely disgusted and sickened by everything that transpired that night. I hope they will take action to prevent this from happening to another poor mother and her special needs child.

I have debated contacting your company for a while regarding one of my experiences at your restaurant. I was really shaken up and upset by what happened and I feel that I need to let you know.

I visited your Anchorage location when I was on federal jury duty. I live three hours away from Anchorage, but was staying in a hotel with my friend and my nine-month-old daughter. We thought it would be fun to go out to eat, and I had always enjoyed dining there any other time I had visited Anchorage.

My daughter was diagnosed with failure to thrive, along with spastic diplegia cerebral palsy in August of 2011. She was and still is, much smaller than most babies her age and has special health concerns. These issues, quite frankly, are no one’s business but mine and my family’s.

My daughter would go into frantic fits if she was in restrictive clothing such as socks or a coat. Most likely a sensory processing issue, which is common with children who have her issues. Because of this, we wrap her in blankets when we go from the car to indoors. We did the same thing that we always do while we were visiting your restaurant. We wrapped her up snugly in blankets and carried her in and took the blankets off when we got inside.

Our server asked how old my daughter was, and not even thinking about her small size, I told the woman she was nine months and she looked shocked and I instantly regretted telling her.

While I was up getting my plate at the buffet, a waitress approached my friend to talk to her about how we need to have a coat on my daughter and that she’s just trying to look out for the little babies she sees and how she hopes we aren’t offended, but she wanted to let us know that the other waitresses were talking about calling children’s services on me because we didn’t have a coat on her (we used the blankets as I described) and because of how small she was.

When I returned to the table, my friend told me what happened. When the waitress came back I asked her what was going on and she told me. I was so upset I couldn’t stop crying. This was the first time I had really gone out and done anything with my daughter and this was how I was being treated. Waitresses criticizing my parenting, threatening to call the authorities and staring my daughter and I down during our visit. I couldn’t even eat my dinner, I was so upset. I was going to ask for a refund but I was so angry and hurt that I couldn’t even speak to my friend without sobbing, let alone speak to a manager. I was so upset, I felt like I was going to get sick. We ended up leaving without eating our dinner and I cried the entire way home.

There are children in this world that have special needs that the general population may not understand. I understand that and I do my best to make my daughter’s issues known to those who they are relevant for. However, I should not have to give a medical history to my server at a restaurant. Nor should I be persecuted, gossiped about and tore down for something they obviously knew nothing about. I was appalled at how I was treated and even now, three months later, I still cannot believe that my daughter and I were treated so poorly.

Needless to say, we have not returned to your establishment, and nor will we. Our experience and the lack of understanding and compassion has left a sour taste in my mouth that I don’t know that I will ever be able to get rid of. You may consider further training for your employees in regards to how these issues should and shouldn’t be addressed. I would hate for another mother and child to experience the horrific treatment that I did while I was at your restaurant.

Samantha Van Vleet

Ava at the restaurant before anyone said anything.

 

Comments
11 Responses to “Public Persecution: Acting as an advocate for a special needs child”
  1. sara crompton says:

    I’m so sorry that happened to you, but she looks FINE! WTF?

    • Samanthavv says:

      I agree. She looks like a happy, healthy baby. She’s on the smaller side, but it’s something we are working on. She isn’t bruised. She isn’t anti-social. She isn’t withdrawn or skittish. She’s a happy, healthy baby.

  2. elise says:

    I am SO SORRY you had this experience. I hope the company will apologize.
    I agree she looks so adorable and cannot understand at all what they saw.
    terrible!

  3. Marissa says:

    Dude that’s not cool at all! I would have left too how dare they talk about your baby! And by the way she is beautiful looks happy & healthy! They don’t know you or her sound like a bunch of gossipy hens. There are lots of babies unfortunately w health probs they are not Dr haven’t been to school for a degree! I hope you hear back from them. Keep us updated

  4. Jaime says:

    Omg that picture is just precious!! She is gorgeous and looks happy. I am sorry for your experience. Sometimes people mean well when acting out of ignorance. I hope the employee is counseled on her actions and that you can forgive her foolishness. Not everyone is that ignorant. The little girl in the picture looks pleased and well cared for- you know you’re doing a good job- to hell with anyone who says otherwise. *hugs*

  5. Melissa says:

    Your story is very upsetting to anyone, I am a Mom to 2 children who are small for their age. One was diagnosed FTT before our previous peds found out he had sever milk allergies. My 3 year old is very small for his age, He weighs 26lbs at 3. We have never once been asked about him. I find what that “women” did very offensive. Not all children are going to be huge and genetics play a role in how tall and how much a child will weigh. My husband at my son’s age was also very small, So our doctor’s not that concerned with his size at all. I am so sorry that happened to you. You should not have had to deal with someone like that, Your daughter is precious. I don’t see where she is upsettingly small, Many parents take off children’s jackets before they even go into a resturant so that should not have been an issue for anyone. I hope you get some where with Golden Corral. This should not happen ever again to you or anyone.

  6. Dee says:

    I’m quite shocked that a person would have the gall to even THINK about doing something like that! It truely is a travesty. Thank you for including a pic of Ava – she’s BEAUTIFUL!!! And I agree with PP, she looks happy and healthy. Who cares if she doesn’t have a jacket on, I regularly did the same thing with my daughter when she was little – and just because she didn’t like jackets. My daughter is small for her age as well, it’s something that we’ve struggled with… but what gets me is that people are sooooo ignorant. Small for age children can have a mileau of health issues that cause their size differences, and genetics play an issue as well. What I don’t understand is why these people didn’t just think that she’s petite, as most everyone says to me about my daughter. As long as the children look healthy – which obviously Ava does, LEAVE THE PARENTS ALONE!!!! In your pic (as a demonstration) shows that Ava is well cared for and does not show any signs of neglect or abuse. I feel sooooo bad that this had to happen to you, as I know that you already suffer from anxiety about going out in public and people thinking things that they shouldn’t be. Stay strong though, YOU ARE A GOOD MOM!!!!!
    Dee´s last blog post ..I hurt!!!!

  7. Jamie says:

    Shame on the wait staff that was so rude to judge you! I also agree that you should NOT have to give your daughters medical history to anyone that you do not wish to, nor should you be judged by such ignorant people.

    With that being said, your little girl looks very happy and healthy! If I didnt read the post, and only saw the picture of her with her age, I would of thought maybe she was born early or maybe she is just small for her age. Either way, she is beautiful and I am sure a great blessing to have. 🙂

    • Samanthavv says:

      Thank you!

      Miss Averly is a joy. I absolutely adore that mischief-making little girl! 😀 Although, after my experience, I can’t imagine what moms of preemies go through!

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