ABC has a news program called “What Would You Do?”. A new episode examines how patrons in a diner react when a teenager who has autism becomes disruptive. It is an example of what families that have a child who has autism often face from other patrons when the family dines out.
“What Would You Do?” is hosted by John Quinones. It appears on ABC. This news program goes into public places and sets scenes for the general public to react to. The purpose is to see how people typically react to a particular situation.
Actors are sent in to create a situation. The people who happen to be in the store, restaurant, or other public place, are unaware that they are on camera as the event occurs. I believe the idea is to capture how real people react to a situation that they have every reason to believe is truly happening at that moment.
A recent episode of the news program examined a situation that happens to families who have a child who has autism. A family is eating dinner at a cafe. The family consists of two parents, a daughter, and a teenage son who has autism. The entire family is being played by actors.
The cafe is crowded, and filled with other patrons who are also enjoying their dinners. The actor who is playing the teenager who has autism starts to get upset. He starts repeating “eggs” over and over. He gets up and starts walking around the restaurant. As he walks, he is doing a repetitive “stimming” behavior that consists of rubbing his thumb over part of his hand in a circular motion.
By now, the other patrons have started to notice. The teen’s father follows him around, and gently tries encouraging him to return to the table where the family is seated. The whole room is starring at them. This is an experience that many families who have a child with an autism spectrum disorder can relate to.
Surprisingly, none of the patrons appear bothered by the “meltdown”. They basically just go on with their meal, and let the teen’s father handle things. Sometimes, that will happen. Often, though, what happens is that the family will get yelled at by someone in the crowd who doesn’t understand what autism is. Another actor was placed within the cafe to preform that function.
The actor turns, and starts yelling at the teen’s father. Some of his comments include: “Can’t you control him?” and “Shouldn’t you take him home, so other people can enjoy their dinner?” The father tries to explain that his son has autism.
The patrons in the cafe start to react. A women leaves her booth to go comfort the mother in the family. A man from across the cafe starts yelling at the complaining actor, telling him to “shut up”. In other words, the crowd came to the defense of the family. What would you do in this situation? How did your family handle a situation like the one portrayed in the video?
Image by Andy Roberts on Flickr