Mother of special needs child wants special restaurant hours

WSVN — A South Florida mother is on a mission for families with special needs children. She wants restaurants to create special hours so these families can dine out. Rosh Lowe has her story in The Lowedown.

Ari Cohen loves life. He loves playing outside. Loves eating French fries, but life at times is not easy for Ari or his mom Leah. Ari was born with a rare chromosomal disorder.

Leah Cohen, son has special needs: “The percentage of kids who have Trisomy 9 Mosaic don’t live past their first birthday.”

Ari can’t speak. He communicates through this device. His mom says when he was born, the doctors didn’t give him long to live, but now he is 13 years old, and his mom Leah believes it is his mission to impact and uplift other people.”

Leah Cohen: “I think one of the things that keeps me going is that something good is gonna come out of this.”

Leah was determined to make sure something good happened. And she got an idea during a recent trip to New York.

Leah Cohen: “Somebody walked right by him and said, ‘I’m so glad we weren’t sitting next to them on the airplane.'”

Leah heard comments like those in restaurants too. So she had an idea — what if restaurants created special hours for special needs children?

Leah Cohen: “Parents and children of the same sort are all together. So if my kid is smearing ketchup on the floor, and your kid is emptying salt packets, I don’t need to put my head down.”

A New York restaurant did just that and opened its doors early for Leah and her family.

Leah wrote about it on Facebook.

Leah Cohen: “The response that came from it was not just one of support from people around the country and the globe. It was, ‘This was happening to me too. I can’t take my child to a restaurant.'”

New York newspapers picked up her story and then a restaurant in Surfside called Backyard BBQ & Brew decided to try the same thing…

Look at these faces enjoying their lunches…

Offy Shiffman, owns restaurant: “If we see there is a real need for it and demand for it, we will make it happen.”

Moms like Michele Saka think there is a real need for it. She is there with her 5-year-old son who has special needs.

Michele Saka, son has special needs: “Mark is the happiest little boy I know. Mark needs to know how to go out to a restaurant. He needs to know how to function.”

Sarah Dworkan’s son Eli was born with a rare genetic disorder. She says going out to eat with him is a challenge.

Sarah Dworkan, son has special needs: “He should have the most regular life possible because why not? Every child deserves that. I think what Leah is doing is incredible.”

And for Leah Cohen, she wants to fight for her son, who’s been battling the odds since day one.

Leah Cohen: “I feel like he’s trapped. That’s when I fall apart. For me, I can deal with it. It’s my kid. I just want him to be happy and I want him to be healthy and I want him to be who he is.”

On this day, she sees just that. When she looks around this restaurant, she sees the families impacted by her work. She sees happiness. And the hope is that many more children and families in this situation will find that comfort as well.

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