Sunday, July 11, 2010

How to order at a restaurant

I was chatting with a deaf friend yesterday. She was raised oral and learned to sign when she was nineteen. She regrets her parents never used ASL and is impressed with how I raise my son. Somehow the conversation came to ordering from a fast food restaurant. I was laughing about how I some parents in the past had told me they wanted their children to be able to order from a fast food restaurant. This was always in reference to speech. My reply is I have never met a deaf person who can't order food but many who have trouble reading "War and Peace".

Then she tells me when she was young she would order a hamburger and end up with a chicken sandwich. Her speech skills were such that people couldn't understand her. I was startled. I told her how we have had Haddy order from restaurants from the age of three. She thought I should share this on my blog. So here it goes.

When we would go to a restaurant we would read the menu to him. When the waiter took out order he would point to what he wanted. At a fast food restaurant we would write a note for him and hand him the money. We taught him to look at the amount on the register. If we needed a to go box at a pizza place we sent him to get it. He would point to his ear and sign box. He never came back empty handed. This was how we did it until he could write then he was on his own. Often friends or relatives would want to jump in and help him. I stopped them and they were surprised at how well he did.

When we went grocery shopping we made a list for him with words and pictures. We gave him money and he paid himself. At the age of three the list maybe had five items. The hardest thing was explaining tax.

So there you go. He can order from a restaurant and read "War and Peace". He read it last year as a sixth grader. He tells me it was "OK".


  1. I haven't heard it so clearly explained how a deaf kid learns to order. Our son simply fell into it naturally...when still hungry after a meal out we'd hand him the money and tell him to go get it himself.

    Maybe parents don't give their deaf kids enough credit for what they can do.

  2. I agree with Dianrez. Many people don't give their kids enough credit.

    The "I want my child to order a hamburger from McDonalds" baffles me too. What if the child can orally order a hamburger from McDonalds but has a poor social life and poor academics? Since when was "speech" equivalent to "success"?

    I'll never forget when the oldest boy I watch (who is now almost 3 and is Deaf from a Deaf family) was 20 months old we went to the Fractured Prune which is this little homemade donut shop. I got a bagel for us to share. After sitting and poking at it for about a minute he looked at me and signed "prefer donut. Want donut. Order donut."

    I tried to explain that we had already bought the bagel and that it was yummy... but he was having nothing of it. He hopped down off the chair, ran up the the counter, got the attention of the lady standing there (who was completely oblivious) and signed "order donut".

    So that was it. I went up with him and we ordered a donut. I think he showed quite a bit of independence for a 20 month old :)

    He still has the independence streak now. He's hilarious.

  3. I went to a restaurant in a rural Oregon town a few years ago and when we sat down the head waiter told us "by the way, your waitress is deaf." She used some speech but her primary language was clearly ASL. She took orders through a mix of gestures, pointing, and speech. It worked fine though.

    Here in France no one talks about wanting their kid to order at MacDo - it's always buying a baguette at the bakery!

  4. Thanks for the comments. I remember going to a retreat and a mom of a thirteen year old telling me she never thought to have her son order for himself.

    Debra, it is so funny I have been a panel speaker for parent meeetings and time and time again people say, "but I want my child to be able to order from Macdonalds" My husband and I always wonder when did Macdonalds become such cultural icon? Why is a toxic hamburger a developemental goal? No joke, people always refer to that specific restaurant.

    What is even more interesting is my son can't order at Macdonalds. He saw a movie and read a book about fast food and will never step foot in the place. Asking my son to eat there is like asking him to swallow poison.

  5. Oh my gosh I spelled Mcdonalds wrong! I also realized I never mentioned that restaurant in my post. How odd that we all new which restaurant I was talking about.