sensory room, autism, autism awareness
The autism awareness rainbow infinity symbol.

New Jersey Restaurant Caters to Children with Autism with Sensory Dining Room

In Ocean County, N.J., one family restaurant is catering to the autistic community. The newly-opened Riv’s Toms River Hub, a Rivoli family restaurant, will have a sensory dining room dedicated to providing a full-service dining experience to children with autism, thanks to inspiration from the owners’ young grandson, Chase.

The sensory room, which the family decided to name “Chase’s Friends Zone,” will accommodate about 45 people and has a private entrance. Every aspect of the dining room will cater to autistic diners, from the menu and food options to the lighting and everything in between. Also, all of the waiters will be certified by KultureCity, a nonprofit that specializes in inclusion for people with autism, and owner Tony Rivoli plans to hire people with disabilities to bus tables in the room as well.

Rivoli isn’t stopping there. Twenty percent of proceeds from “Chase’s Friends Zone” will be distributed into a fund administered by a nonprofit, most likely Hometown Heroes of Toms River, according to the Asbury Park Press.

The room also will feature what the Rivolis are calling “The Family Tree.” Each guest who eats in the room will be able to put their last name on a puzzle piece, which will be placed on the wall on a mural of a tree, which is being painted by the older daughter of Peggy Kruger, a Toms River special education teacher who is helping the Rivolis with the project.

“This is something we feel passionate about,” Kruger told the Asbury Park Press. “We want families to be able to come here and not feel stigmatized or out of place, and for kids to be who they are and feel acceptance.”

Kruger’s younger daughter, Emma, 12, also has autism, so the project hits close to home for her as well.

The room will cater to many of the neurological senses, including soothing lighting, a table-less corner filled with beanbag chairs for patrons to “chill” in, and a visual menu using iPads, where all of the food will be pictured. All of these elements are designed to help autistic patrons relax and get a break from the usual hustle and bustle of typical restaurants. Many times, as Kruger noted, “there are so many sights and sounds and smells and people that our kids are not able to filter it all out.” This struggle can cause families to forego eating out at all. The Rivolis are seeking to end that and start a new trend for restaurants.

The sensory room projects to be finished and ready for business come early November.

“This really will be a dream come true for so many people,” Christina Proctor, a Brick resident and autism teacher in Jersey City who also is helping to lead the project, told the Asbury Park Press. “We want this to be a movement. We want it to spread like wildfire.”

Related Article: Internet Proves to Be a Voice for People with Disabilities

Latest News

Rep. Ilhan Omar

Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert Makes Anti-Muslim Comments Against Fellow Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota

Following the horrific example of Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona, who posted an animated video depicting the killing of his congressional colleague Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, another member of the House of Representatives has made a similarly vile attack on a co-worker based purely on her religious beliefs. James Anderson of the…

Pinterest app

Pinterest Enacting New Company-Wide DEI Initiatives Following Gender and Race Discrimination Lawsuit

Following a lawsuit led by the General Treasurer of Rhode Island, social media company Pinterest has announced that it will be enacting a series of new diversity, equity and inclusion workplace reforms to settle a recent lawsuit against them. Patrick Anderson of The Providence Journal reported that “the reforms are…


Kaiser Permanente Pledges $25,000 To Support Vaccine Access in Native Hawaiian Communities

Originally published at Kaiser Permanente is a DiversityInc Hall of Fame company.   Kaiser Permanente of Hawaii has announced a $25,000 grant to Kula No Na Po‘e Hawai‘i (KULA), a Native Hawaiian beneficiary serving organization that exists to promote cultural, educational, environmental, and health equity for all. With this…

Kaiser Permanente Awards $115,000 in Grants To Support Essential Health Services for Community Organizations in Hawaii Affected by COVID-19

Originally published at Kaiser Permanente is a DiversityInc Hall of Fame company.   Kaiser Permanente of Hawaii has awarded grants, totaling $115,000, to support two vital community organizations affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The grants will bolster the resiliency of Lanakila Pacific and the American Red Cross of Hawaii,…

Boeing Company Expands Sustainability Alliance With Etihad Airways To Drive Innovation in the Aviation Industry

Originally published at Boeing Company ranked No. 17 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2021.   On Nov. 15, Boeing and Etihad Airways announced they will expand the companies’ deep collaboration towards environmental goals. Centered on the airline’s 787 Dreamliner fleet, the new memorandum of understanding…