A STALYBRIDGE woman has praised an Ashton restaurant for going the extra mile in the welcome it gives to sufferers of autism and other disabilities.
Nicola Sweeney, of Balderstone Road, Arlies, is a regular customer at San Rocco, the Italian eaterie, with her seven-year-old son Taylor who suffers from autism.
And Nicola described the challenges of eating out with a child with autism – Taylor attends Oakdale Primary, a special needs school in Dukinfield.
She said: “I have been in restaurants and, when I have requested glasses be removed from the table, the looks received have been as though the world had stopped going around.
“But at San Rocco they appreciate the special needs of the children and can’t do enough to help you.
“For example, they have a special picture menu which they put together with help from speech and language therapists. It enables children to point to what they want to eat.
“There is a lovely atmosphere, something others have acknowledged with comments on TripAdvisor.”
There was special praise for Mark Wain, San Rocco’s manager as Nicola said: “Mark has the biggest heart and doesn’t realise what he has done.
“There shouldn’t be a stigma going for a meal, and Mark ensures there isn’t one.”
Nicola added the obstacles of eating out at restaurants are such that many parents of children with autism prefer a café or fast-food outlet, but San Rocco has changed her approach to eating out with Taylor.
“I think the lengths San Rocco go to deserve recognition because this is the place to go to if you are a parent of a child with autism,” she said.
Nicola is keen to make the public more autistic aware, describing it as an “invisible disability”.
“I am keen to get the word out for people to realise they are not only naughty children, but there may be other issues,” she said.
Mark Wain, manager of San Rocco, explained having children of his own made him aware of those with disabilities before Nicola and Taylor came to the restaurant.
He said: “We are a family restaurant and want to make everybody welcome.
“We have staff meetings to go through what to do is somebody comes in who looks to have a disability and to ask parents/guardians of any special requirements.
“It need not necessarily be a child, but could be an elderly person.
“It may be to turn down the lights or music. It could be something small, but it would make it easier for them to enjoy their experience. It is all down to common sense.”
Mark has recently been interviewed on television, radio and various newspapers as word has spread about his initiatives which have also received considerable publicity on social media.
And it has resulted in San Rocco attracting new custom with a family from Cheadle Hulme now regular diners after they became aware of them.
Mark is also aware of other restaurants who have seen the San Rocco picture menu and are going to create their own version.