Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Autism Eats designs Riverview dining event for families

Boston’s Lenard Zohn, shown with his son Aidin, started Autism Eats to help children with autism and their parents enjoy an evening of dining. The effort comes to Riverview on Monday, Aug. 29.  Photo courtesy of Lenard Zohn

Courtesy of Lenard Zohn

Boston’s Lenard Zohn, shown with his son Aidin, started Autism Eats to help children with autism and their parents enjoy an evening of dining. The effort comes to Riverview on Monday, Aug. 29. Photo courtesy of Lenard Zohn

RIVERVIEW — As a parent with an autistic child, Emily Grime says dining out can sometimes pose a challenge.

She feels as though families in similar situations have an idea of what works and what doesn't work, and she longs to connect with families going through similar situations.

Grime will get that chance Monday at the area's first Autism Eats from 6 to 8 p.m. at East Coast Pizza, 13340 Lincoln Road.

With a 2-year-old daughter who doctors diagnosed with autism, Grime hopes families with more experience can assist with advice and resources.

"Through hearing and learning about the experiences of others, it might provide me with an idea I did not think of," Grime said.

Autism Eats aims to give these families an opportunity to enjoy restaurant dinners without the stress that often accompanies such outings. It provides a nonjudgmental, buffet-style dinner for families with autistic children.

Co-founder Lenard Zohn and his wife developed the organization in Massachusetts in 2014, bringing it about because their 11-year-old son Adin has autism.

Zohn said his son's behavior made it kind of difficult to dine out. Sometimes Adin would start screaming or become fidgety if he became bored from waiting too long at the restaurant. Also, Adin's favorite food of choice would be pizza. Unfortunately, he assumed every restaurant served pizza, which led to problems.

"There would be times when people at other tables looked at us and after a while, the enjoyment got outweighed by the distraction," Zohn said.

The Community Roundtable will also serve as a co-sponsor of Monday's event at East Coast Pizza.

"This will be a great opportunity for the parents and children to get a night out," said Janine Nickerson, Community Roundtable president.

Several steps will be taken to facilitate a smooth evening. The Autism Eats dinner will be held in a private room of the restaurant. Tables will be set up for families to congregate and consume a meal together. Autism Eats takes payment in advance so families do not need to worry about waiting for a check. A variety of foods will be available for both adults and children upon their arrival. Children who are on special diets will be able to bring their own food.

"I hope the community sees this as an opportunity to support the children in this community and their families who live with the challenges autism presents," said Aaron Fredricks, owner of East Coast Pizza.

Currently, the Autism Eats organization can be found in five states. By the end of 2016, it expects to be in 26 states and in the process of obtaining official nonprofit status.

Zohn believes these events can help people better understand children with autism.

"Just be patient and kind when meeting someone with autism because they may find it difficult to interact," Zohn said.

Contact Tatiana Ortiz at

>>If you go

Autism Eats

The dining event for children with autism and their families will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday at East Coast Pizza, 13340 Lincoln Road, Riverview. Admission is $23 for adults, $17 for kids 12-10, $4 for kids under 10. For more information, go to

Autism Eats designs Riverview dining event for families 08/25/16 [Last modified: Friday, August 26, 2016 1:38pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Man charged with threatening Florida lawmaker on Facebook


    From The Associated Press:

    MIAMI — A Florida man has been charged with threatening to kill a state legislator in a Facebook post. 

    This booking photo released by the Miami-Dade Police Department shows Steve St. Felix, who has been charged with threatening to kill Republican state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in a Facebook post.
  2. Joe Maddon: What my time in Tampa Bay meant, and still means, to me

    The Heater

    Editor's note: The Rays next week in Chicago will meet up for the first time with former manager Joe Maddon, who is in his third year leading the Cubs after nine with the Rays. In advance of the Tuesday-Wednesday series, we asked Maddon to share his thoughts in a column on what his time in Tampa Bay meant to …

    Joe Maddon waits to greet B.J. Upton after Upton's home run in Game 2 of the ALCS in 2008 at Tropicana Field. [Times files (2008)]
  3. First WannaCry, now cyberattack Petya spreads from Russia to Britain


    Computer systems from Russia to Britain were victims of an international cyberattack Tuesday in a hack that bore similarities to a recent one that crippled tens of thousands of machines worldwide.

    A computer screen cyberattack warning notice reportedly holding computer files to ransom, as part of a massive international cyberattack, at an office in Kiev, Ukraine, on Tuesday.  A new and highly virulent outbreak of malicious data-scrambling software appears to be causing mass disruption across Europe.
[Oleg Reshetnyak via AP]
  4. Pinellas sheriff's corporal had racist, sexist, pornographic content on his cell phone

    Public Safety

    LARGO — A Pinellas County sheriff's corporal resigned recently after an investigation into an alleged extramarital affair revealed a trove of racist, sexist and pornographic images on his personal cell phone.

    Shawn Pappas, 46, resigned as a training division corporal from the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office after an investigation revealed a trove of offensive images and videos on his phone. This photo was taken as a screenshot from one of the videos released by the Sheriff's Office that Pappas filmed while on duty. [Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
  5. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine reflects on the news from the Congressional Budget Office analysis that could imperil GOP leaders' hopes of pushing their health care the plan through the chamber this week, Tuesday, on Capitol Hill in Washington. [AP photo]