NC mom says autistic son received disrespectful treatment at restaurant

ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. (WNCN) – A North Carolina mother’s fight for the rights of her son with autism played out on social media.

She posted an emotional video detailing what she said was disrespectful treatment at a local restaurant.

The restaurant said it’s a misunderstanding.

EJ and Latonya
EJ and Latonya

“I’ve never been so hurt and so angry in my life,” Latonya Whitaker said in the Facebook video.

Whitaker poured out her feelings in an emotional Facebook post after she and her three sons went to Golden Corral in Rocky Mount earlier this month.

“He’s going to tell me that my child can’t eat his food there, so you’re going to discriminate against people with special needs,” she goes on to say in the video.

Whitaker said her son, 6-year-old Eric Junior, has autism spectrum disorder, causing him to have feeding issues.

One of two foods he eats is McDonald’s french fries.

Whitaker told CBS North Carolina, “If (EJ) asks for fries, I am going to get him fries.”

Earlier this month, as the rest of the family ate Golden Corral, Whitaker said EJ ate his McDonald’s fries. Then she said, a manager approached them.

“And his first words to me were ‘get that out of here. That can’t be in my restaurant.’ I said, ‘Sir, he has feeding issues, he’s autistic,'” Whitaker said.

Golden Corral told CBS North Carolina their policy does not allow outside food into the restaurant.

Whitaker said she and the manager continued back and forth, she chose to leave, and turned to social media.

“It hurt my feelings when you discriminate against my child,” she also said in the nearly four minute video.

The video has been watched nearly 170,000 times.

The owner of Rocky Mount’s Golden Corral issued an apology on Facebook, saying the incident was an “unfortunate misunderstanding.”

Whitaker said, “I appreciate that statement, the apology that the owner made. I would prefer the apology come from the person that mistreated my child.”

Whitaker said she would like people to become more knowledgeable and research disorders like autism.

“There’s a lot of people who are not aware of what autism actually is and how it actually affects people. Everyone with autism is different,” she said.

Golden Corral said they waived their food policy, to allow EJ to eat his fries.

They also said they’ve offered Whitaker and her family to come and eat for free at the restaurant.

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