EDINBURG, Texas (KVEO) – When an out-of-the-ordinary request meets a Chick-fil-A staff that is eager to please, you get a story five thousand Facebook users had to share.
One Edinburg mother is grateful for the service she received at her local Chick-fil-A and the opportunity to spread awareness on a subject close to her heart.
Marlee Olivarez’s trip to Chick-fil-A got an ‘overwhelming’ amount of attention this past Tuesday. The post that was originally made just for friends has been shared by thousands of Facebook users, and it was something that Olivarez was not expecting.
In her post, Olivarez shared her family’s experience at a Chick-fil-A drive-thru, in Edinburg, along with a picture of her son eating his breakfast. She wrote a paragraph that started ‘*Autism Awareness Post.*’
Olivarez goes on to explain that she was moved by the employees’ lack of judgment and curiosity about her out-of-the-ordinary breakfast order.
“With Matthew, he doesn’t like his food groups to touch each other, so everything has to be separate because of the textures. It’s pretty much a sensory overload for him,” said Olivarez.
Olivarez says she ordered a number four, which is meant to be a scrambled bowl with hash browns, egg, cheese, and chicken or sausage.
“As we were waiting, one of the managers comes up, that I had always seen there, with a smile, great customer service all the time. And he asked me, ‘you know out of the many years that I’ve been working here, I’ve never seen or heard of anybody ask for this ordered in this particular way, is there a reason why,’” said Olivarez.
She says she was grateful for the opportunity to explain to Hospitality Director, Sam Guardiola, why she made the request and the chance to spread awareness about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
Matthew is on the high-functioning side of the Autism spectrum, he says his name has the letters M.A.T.H. because he’s good at math. He is eight years old and was diagnosed with ASD about a year and a half ago. Olivarez says the signs were there long before the diagnosis.
“He would put his cheerios in a straight line, and he would color coordinate his racecars, the type of cars, the type of trucks, in a line also, at about two and a half. Also, around that age, that is when they’re starting to get picky with foods, and so he didn’t like certain textures of foods. He preferred things to be separated from each other,” said Olivarez.
Olivarez says she was in denial at first about her son’s disorder, but the diagnosis was an explanation for some of his behaviors.
Guardiola says there was no problem fulfilling the request, but when his curiosity compelled him to ask why, he says the response gave him goosebumps.
“She informed me that it was because of her son who’s autistic, and he wanted to feel the texture of each individual item. So, me being a father of three, I understood her completely… it was more of a pleasure. I know Chick-fil-A is about guest service, customer service, and striving to do the best for our guest and so it was just something so natural to do for her. When she was so grateful for it, well, it just encouraged the whole team to do an even better job,” said Guardiola.
Olivarez says going out before Matthew was diagnosed was a ‘daunting’ experience. “Even now that he is diagnosed, you know, it’s very discomforting to see how people stare at you whenever your child is having a meltdown, feelings of you being judged,” she said.
Olivarez says gaining an understanding of ASD can start with a Google search, and would likely help business owners create a better experience for customers with not only ASD but other disorders as well. She started an autism awareness Instagram page that “provides parents, family members, educators, and the general population awareness, understanding, compassion, and inclusivity.”
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