Autism Eats offers community, fun for families with autistic children

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A North Side mother is launching a chapter of Autism Eats in Chicago on Saturday in an effort to help parents of children with autism have a fun and low-stress night on the town as a family.

Shannon Armstrong said her family is the motivation behind the launch of the Chicago chapter of Autism Eats.

"I have a stepson with autism who is 14. My husband read an article about Autism Eats in Boston where families with kids with autism take over a dining room or restaurant and everyone goes out together," said Armstrong. "So...I contacted the founder and asked him how we get started in Chicago."

She said some of the experiences her family goes through while dining out fueled her passion to bring this program to Chicago.

"You feel like people are staring at you or getting uncomfortable...when we were eating out I noticed that. When I heard about the organization I thought well great we can all go out to eat together and everybody can relax and have a good time," Armstrong said.

Autism Eats focuses on simplifying dinner with no wait, a pre-paid buffet style meal, no checks at the end and a sensory friendly atmosphere with dimmer lights and no music.

Vania Marrero and her husband have two children with autism and said they are very excited to take their kids out and connect with other families.

"I feel like we are all one now," Marrero said. "I go therapy session and the families are all talking so I feel like man, she'll understand me and that woman will understand me and the kids can act up and they don't have to be stared at or judged so I'm really happy with that."

Saturday's kick-off dinner is sold out, but Autism Eats is holding a brunch on April 22nd at Fireside that still has some available seats.

Autism Eats has partnered with several other restaurants for future events. For more information, please visit
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