Editor's note: April 2, 2014 is World Autism Awareness Day, and we're sharing this story to continue the conversation about autism in public spaces.
Things are not always as they appear to be. Our recent story "The waitress, the autistic girl and the broken hamburger" shared the experiences of Anna Kaye MacLean, a young woman who was deeply touched by the kindness of a Chili's server to her seven-year-old sister Arianna, who has autism.
While many people interpret Arianna's behavior - sometimes involving violent tantrums and grunting - as uncontrolled brattiness, her older sister will take the time to explain the condition if asked. Occasionally, fellow restaurant patrons will ask to be moved to other tables, give dirty looks, or criticize MacLean's handling of the situation. While the family has never been asked to leave a restaurant, they're keenly aware of other patrons' comfort and will leave of their own accord.
Scenes like this play out in public every day, as evidenced by the over 650 comments that poured in when we posted the story. In observance of National Autism Awareness Month and April 2, World Autism Awareness Day, we're sharing insight from some of our commenters who have experience weathering the minefield that is a restaurant meal.
Commenter Autism Mom knows firsthand how far a little kindness and understanding in a public situation can go. Her 17-year-old daughter was diagnosed with autism at age two, and she recently used her experiences to offer hope to some strangers in need of kindness.
Khawar Nehal shed some light on some commonly occurring behaviors associated with eating. Arianna's upset occurred when she was served a burger that was cut in half, rather than left whole. When a new 'fixed" burger arrived, she kissed it and told it, "I missed you."
Dad of 2 on the spectrum explained that it is crucial to pick one's battles, especially if it's in the best interest of the community.
It pays to be a regular, finds single dad, Mike A. He, his seven-year-old son with autism and his nine-year-old neurotypical daughter have gotten to know the staff - and it's been beneficial for both parties.
Jackie Weiler turned a negative restaurant experience into an opportunity to educate others about autism.
Momoftwoautism doesn't necessarily expect fellow patrons to understand, but she's grateful for kindness when she comes across it.
Nicole, mother of a 21-year-old with autism, is well aware of the effort it takes to accommodate her family and just asks for a little patience.
Christy is the mother of a ten-year-old son with high-functioning autism, who reacted well to repeated exposure to the restaurant environment. To get him there, she had to develop a very thick skin.
And to patrons who are less than understanding of the sometimes uncontrollable behavior exhibited by children with autism, Ann suggests a solution of her own.
Please add your voice to the mix and share your own stories in the comments below, or upload a report to CNN iReport's new assignment: Living with autism: Out in public.
Some comments have been edited and condensed for clarity.