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