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Montgomery mother sees hope in autistic son's "broken doughnut"

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Photo Courtesy: Christie Aitken Photo Courtesy: Christie Aitken
MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

The following letter is written by Christi Aitken, a Montgomery, Alabama resident who recently took a trip to an area doughnut restaurant with her children. What transpired was this letter, based on her autistic son's "broken doughnut", and the smiles created along the way to fixing his dessert.

Repeated fully in her own words:

By now you have most likely read the "broken cheeseburger" story. 

Our hearts were collectively touched this year as we read of a precious child on the autism spectrum, the family that loves her, and a waitress/restaurant franchise that learned of the intricacies of autism.  They not only responded, but responded instantly with something that far exceeds customer service.  They responded in love and the world, in turn, responded to Chile's with the same. 

Once you've read that story, you can never look at a cheeseburger in the same way.  Every time you go to take a bite, the picture of that sweet baby kissing her "healed" cheeseburger will cross your mind... and it's wonderful.

I relate to the story even more because I'm the parent of a child on the Autism spectrum... and tonight our version of a "broken cheeseburger" was a "ruined doughnut."

You see, as a modification to the dining in experience, we've learned the value of the Krispy Kreme drive-thru.  I mean, come on... doughnuts without ever leaving the car?  I think so! :) And so, we partake in the experience of what Louie Giglio calls "the Kreme" about once a month.

I was particularly impressed that my son asked for a "doughnut with custard-- not creme" tonight.  That's some big strides in the language department and specificity that would make every OT and speech therapist in the world smile for days.  It definitely made this Mama smile as I placed our order. 

We bought our doughnuts.  One for each child.  Pulled out of the drive-thru and passed them out immediately.  (Because WHO waits for doughnuts! Right?)

The smiles were all over the place... that is, until the tears began.

And the tears turned to sobs...

And the sobs turned into the most panicked look I have ever seen on my child's face.

"You RUINED my doughnut.  It's ruined! It's ruined! It's ruined!" 

I had NO idea what was wrong and I must be honest when I say that I was frustrated at first.  Autism is like a great mystery and even the most well read and pro-actively educated parents must play detective to some degree to find what works for their child's place on the spectrum.

The pieces were just not fitting in this moment.  I could SEE the anxiety in his face.  This was not bad behavior.  It was not a tantrum.  It was a child locked inside his own language parameters who was clearly trying to tell me something... and I didn't have the key to unlock that moment for him.

And then I saw it.  The doughnut's chocolate covered top had a blemish in the icing.  To this girl, that little break in the icing would have meant nothing... but to my little guy?  It was "broken"... completely ruined.  All that he could see is that this doughnut would not work the way a proper doughnut would work.  He just could not "unsee" everything that was wrong with this custard filled piece of heaven.

So, what do you do?  Well,  I figured out what to do all because another parent was brave enough to share their story.  I remembered the cheeseburger story referenced above and that the little girl's family had been willing to order and pay for another cheeseburger because the moment she was having was not by choice, but rather a signature of her autism. 

Their example gave me one to follow tonight and I was delighted to drive back through the drive through to see our server, Ms. Chan, and order the "not ruined" custard doughnut again.

My little fella's tears dried up in an instant and my he managed to get out a "thank you" to our new friend through trembling little lips.  His tear stained little face managed a teeny smile at Ms. Chan, too... and she warmly smiled back at him as she handed him a Krispy Kreme hat and ensured that my oldest son received one, also.  Finally, she looked at me and promptly said with a smile, "No charge."  (So much for the dry eyes, huh?)  

To some this is just a $1.50 doughnut.  No big deal at all. Customer service is a "should" and this woman did a fine job at doing what she "should" do.

To this Mommy, though, tonight was compassion, love, awareness, and community all rolled into one.  Tonight was not a "should" of customer service... it was a choice well made by a woman who is changing lives with her heart for people.

See, here's the even bigger story, folks...

When we share our stories, the world gets to love with us.  

As we relate our life experiences, we give the next parent another way to handle a situation that might otherwise baffle them.  When YOU reach out and say, "This is what my world really looks like" and don't lean to only the highlight reel, you have a part in changing the world. 

Our stories spread far beyond our moments and the places that sometimes look broken or frantic in our lives.  God uses the broken moments for healing each time our story is told... and it's contagious.  So share.  Share this story.  Share your story.  For the love of all that is wonderful, SHARE.

In celebration of OUR moment this evening, I dedicate this post to Krispy Kreme in Montgomery, AL and to our new friend, "Ms. Chan", at the drive-thru there.   Her manager has already been called and her corporate office will most definitely know that she's an asset to the Krispy Kreme name.  If you're ever in town, go pay them a visit and thank them for being love in action... one doughnut at a time.

Christie Aitken

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