An unfortunate incident will result in sensitivity trainings for a Packer Park eatery’s employees.
Diners do not often yield teachable moments, but Melissa Bressi and the Penrose Diner, 2016 Penrose Ave., are hoping to transform an unpleasant experience into an exercise on appreciating differences.
The two became unlikely partners Jan. 28, when a misunderstanding involving her 7-year-old autistic son Christopher Bressi led the mother to depart the establishment.
“Christopher is an extremely intelligent, high functioning boy,” Bressi said Monday of the first-grader at Epiphany of Our Lord School, 1248 Jackson St.
Courtesy of the Germantown-based Green Tree School, which empowers special-needs individuals through various measures, the diner will begin to better its interaction with autistic individuals by participating in a March 19 training session.
At home, family members have no problem interacting with one another. Christopher eagerly played a board game with his mother, sister Samantha, 9, and brother Louis, 3, in their home on the 2600 block of South Chadwick Street before meeting friends for outside activities. His day may sound customary for someone similarly aged, but it marked another triumph in his wrestling with a form of autism spectrum disorder.
“Christopher was diagnosed in the fall of 2008,” Bressi said, noting his status prompted her to pursue a career in offering assistance to parents of special-needs children.
As she had associated autism with poor or limited speaking skills, she had not expected her offspring to receive that classification because he has always possessed deft language abilities. Expressive language sometimes troubles Christopher as he contends with a sensory processing disorder, with occasional declines in attention and focus and bouts with frustration stemming from desires for order also presenting challenges, though Epiphany’s assistance has aided him greatly.
As no uniformity marks children on the spectrum, his mother stressed practicing patience and intensifying awareness when spending time with autistic children. Her clan’s late January visit to the Penrose gave her proof of the work that must occur for acceptance to be persistent, though Bressi had foreseen a typically enjoyable Saturday evening in its confines.
“We had enjoyed many meals there,” she said.
The aforementioned date brought no such comfort, as management belittled her by voicing gripes about the condition of a menu that Christopher had handled, she said.
“It was poor judgment on their part in reacting to a menial situation,” Bressi said.
Christopher profusely apologized, with his mother announcing her son’s condition as a way to have the employees understand his action, which involved adjusting the order guide’s spiral holder. When matters intensified, she decided to leave yet had to compensate the diner for the menu.
“I was mortified,” Bressi said. “I just did not understand why it had to escalate into something so hurtful.”
Penrose owner Dimitri Kolovos, who was not present at the time of the incident, issued a televised apology that Bressi let her children view to facilitate forgiveness. As his staff is sizeable, his location will require at least one more consultation. For next month’s gathering and whatever future assistance he receives, he is happy and sees such guidance as mandatory for similar establishments.
“Everyone in the service industry needs to be aware of different situations,” he said.
Louie Berman cannot surmise why the Bressis’ situation exploded either, but he wants no equivalent dilemma ever to outrage another family. A resident of the 100 block of McClellan Street, he has an autistic son and serves on the board of Green Tree School. The head of Louie’s Voice, which provides guidance through its “Speaking up for Autism” mantra, he learned of the Penrose incident and saw an opportunity to convey knowledge.
“I knew I had to find the means to secure some sense of resolution,” the Pennsport dweller said.
As one out of every 110 U.S. children faces autism, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, he knew his idea would need to be capable of being replicated.
As a first-time mother, Denine Caporale monitored her newborn's every move with attentive eyes. After her son, Gino, turned 1, she began noticing peculiarities in his behavior. "He never could interact well with his peers," said Caporale, of the 2600 block of South Iseminger Street. "It was always a struggle for him to play with another child." Caporale quickly brushed off the incidents. But when Gino reached his 3rd birthday, the mother's concerns intensified. "I heard other kids his age who were talking fluently and he wasn't," she said. After undergoing extensive tests at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Gino was diagnosed with autism, a neurological disorder that affects a child's ability to communicate, understand language and play and interact with others. As many as 1.5 million Americans - children and adults - are thought to have autism today, according to the Autism Society of America Web site. Gino's doctors could not guarantee he would ever speak or function like his peers. Determined to give her son a promising future, Caporale did not accept the prognosis. She placed Gino in numerous therapy sessions and made sure he was nourished by the love of his family. But this experience only was preparing her as her...