Restaurant adds “sensory night” series


OKEMOS, Mich. (WLNS)– More businesses are finding ways to be inclusive of families with special needs.

Outback Steakhouse manager Derick Zanger says inclusion comes naturally to him as a member of the service industry.

“This job is literally just taking care of people,” Zanger says. “So that means if you have a sensory disability or something like that, that’s part of the people.”

He helped start a “sensory night” series at his restaurant in the fall.
For two hours a day on the first and third Monday of every month, the staff dims the lights and turns off all music and TV’s. They also bring out menus with more pictures than words to make it easier to order dinner, and add sensory kits with fidget spinners, headphones and books which experts say play a big role in the experience.

“Those tools can be good for some children and adults to release some sensory feedback that they’re getting in a more appropriate way,” Paul Doher of the Autism Centers of Michigan says, “as opposed to an inappropriate social behavior, such as screaming or covering the head or running out or fidgeting with things they can’t touch.”

Doher says finding experiences like this is half the battle for some families.

“I’m here to take care of everybody, no matter, no matter anything,” Zanger says. “If you come in, you’re going to get taken care of to the best of my abilities by all of my staff.”

The first session of the new year is January 6th from 4-6 p.m.

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