Autism-Friendly Dinners Make Comeback At Shrewsbury Restaurant

A Shrewsbury restaurant is catering to people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) by hosting sensory-friendly dinners. 

The outside of Burton's Grill & Bar (left) and an example of the sensory bag given to dinner guests
The outside of Burton's Grill & Bar (left) and an example of the sensory bag given to dinner guests Photo Credit: Google Maps/David Cifarelli

For the first time since the pandemic, Burton's Grill & Bar will be hosting an event the first Tuesday of every month between 3-6 p.m., the restaurant said on Facebook. However, manager Catherine Rutigliano hopes they can pick up the pace.

"We are actually thinking about not just doing it the first of the month, [but] possibly doing more events every single month just so more people can make it out here."  

Burton's hosted a couple dinners in the fall before COVID shut it down, but Rutigliano says this only heightens to importance of the event.

"I think we realized during the pandemic how important restaurants really are," she said. "You get to kind of relax and just take a breath; and for parents with kids with autism, sometimes that's kind of hard." 

The idea for the dinners began when the Autism Alliance of MetroWest contacted Burton's back in 2019. Burton's was the first – and so far the only – restaurant in the area to host such an event.

Rutigliano, whose cousin has Autism and whose mom heads the Special Education Department at a regional high school, was immediately passionate about this event. 

"It's so exciting for me to do this and carry this on through my life," she said. "To walk by and see the people enjoying themselves, eating and not stressed out or worried about somebody judging them, that's a big enough reward for me."

The events aim to create a more "sensory-friendly environment" with softer music and lights, visual menus and sensory bags. Burton's staff also received Autism awareness training from the Autism Alliance to help raise their own awareness. 

Overall, Rutigliano says the events help to "normalize" ASD and help spread awareness. Updates and information about any upcoming dinners will be posted on Burton's Facebook page

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