Steve Palmer's blog about his son Stanley - who has Down's Syndrome - & the extended family. All about Down Syndrome and learning disability.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

How an incident in Mcdonald's ballooned out of control

Stan did something unspeakable in the Golden Arches. I mean, personally I was rather relaxed about it, but a little girl's dad certainly wasn't. It all happened in the kids' play area.
Stan in a quieter time, away from Macdonald's
More about Stan's burger crime in a moment. But first, allow me to expand on an idea: one of 'age-appropriateness'. The other day Stan and I went to a party, for adults with learning disabilities. Aged nearly 14, Stan now gets to go to this sort of thing. And it was such a relief. The DJ played songs that the teenagers and their siblings loved, there were no kid games and it was a really good afternoon out. The embodiment of age-appropriateness.

Now, Mcdonald's is also age-appropriate, but the play area in the corner certainly isn't. With an overhead projector showing images on the floor, kids can have fun running around stamping on puzzles or kicking an animated ball around. 

And Stan made a beeline for this area and immediately stole a little girl's balloon. Just the sort of thing we don't want him to do. And the more anyone objects, the more difficult it is to stop him. The girl's dad protested from his seat, in a rather pained way.

I'm sure his daughter is very precious. But he was making her, well...too precious. "Ooh, please stop him. STOP him." It was an over-the-top reaction and, on cue, Stan went as if he was going to stamp on the balloon. The dad got up. He started to dance around, shouting "STOP!". Stan loved it.

All rather unfortunate. But I also think that parents have some responsibility to react in a relaxed and groovy way when disabled people are around. This guy didn't. And what happened next made me so proud of myself. I actually used a line that I'd rehearsed, and I meant it. 

"Yes. It's the worst thing that's ever happened to you." That stopped all the nonsense and the dad shut up. 

So Stan and I went and got our meals and when I asked him where he wanted to sit, well, yes you've guessed it. Next to the disturbed dad. Our table neighbours stayed for ten more agonising minutes and then performed the walk of shame past us. And Stan, ever the gentleman, said, just they'd squirmed along: "Bye." He's very forgiving. 

I hope that guy was embarrassed. Because what did he really want? For Stan to make life easy for him and not be there? Would he have preferred it if we left? Well. News alert. We ain't going nowhere. And the daughter kept her balloon.

Stan might do some odd things. Live with it. Or you might find that a parent floors you with a prepared one-liner that sums up why it might be an idea to balance your anxieties with other's people's right to be present in Mcdonald's. 

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