Managing the meltdowns of a 6-year-old was something Lauren Nordberg had down to a science.
She carried headphones around if it got noisy for her son.
And, she kept an iPad on hand to distract him if there was too much stimuli.
But, as they settled into their seats in a busy diner filled with people off from work for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, she realized she had none of those things.
Nordberg expected restaurant-goers were annoyed by her son’s emotional breakdown.
Instead, she was surprised by a good Samaritan who not only paid for their meal but also left a touching note on the back of her check.
“You are doing a wonderful job,” the note read. “From a mother who knows.”
Just thinking about those words brings Nordberg to tears, she said.
She shared a photo of the note on social media to thank the anonymous person.
Nordberg’s son, Elliot, has Asperger’s syndrome.
It’s a developmental disorder that affects his social and communication ability, and certain triggers like loud noises or a change in routine set him off.
Going out to eat is always a challenge for Nordberg and her family.
They try to go to the same restaurant whenever they are out and sit in the same place so Elliot is comfortable.
On Monday, Nordberg and Elliot had made a proposition that if he did a good job at the dentist, a difficult place for him to visit, she would reward him with his favorite meal at his favorite restaurant in Bainbridge Island, Washington, where they live.
But, when they got to the diner for lunch, it was swarming with customers.
The 35-year-old mother forgot people were off from work for the national holiday.
It didn’t take long for Elliot to spiral into an emotional frenzy.
He was yelling and screaming, drawing the attention and disapproving stares of other customers.
Nordberg took him outside so they wouldn’t cause a scene.
And, when their stack of pancakes arrived, she hustled to get them in and out of the restaurant quickly.
When the note came at the end of the meal, it was like a cathartic release, she said.
“I was crying, and the owner of the restaurant was crying, too,” she said.
The possibility of Elliot having a public meltdown or saying something socially inappropriate is something that’s always on Nordberg’s mind.
“When I walk into places with him sometimes, it feels like I am walking on pins and needles,” she said. “To have someone say, ‘I get it, and it’s okay’ – it’s a relief, and it was really powerful.”