Creating Independence When Ordering at a Restaurant

picture of hamburgers

There is a student in our 18+ program that is working towards rewards. Her reward is to go out to a restaurant and eat a hamburger. She doesn't like to use her communication device but her speech can be difficult to understand, especially if you don't know her well.

Encouraging the Use of Communication Devices

Going out to eat as a reward will be very motivating for this student and will get her to use her communication device. I came up with a restaurant choice sheet so she can choose which of the four local restaurants she wants to go to eat a hamburger.

Four different restaurants

We then schedule our community outing! Once at the restaurant, she'll have her picture menu that I created based off the restaurant's menu. Then, she can select the burger she wants and the drink by using a dry erase marker. The student is also working on using her money skills (i.e. rounding up to the next dollar). We discussed what she wanted on her menu (i.e. pictures only, pictures with words, prices), she came alive directing me to do her bidding. For this activity, and as to not overcomplicate, the burger prices were put on the menu and not drink prices. She even had me read my notes to her and corrected me when I wrote down something wrong. It's always a great idea to get the student as involved as possible.

Burger Menu Choices Sheets

Hamburger and cheeseburgerBacon cheeseburger & "Jack" burgerThe "Destruction" Burger and Jalapeno Cream Cheese burger


Condiment Choices Sheets

condiments: onion, mayo, ketchuplettuce, pickles, tomatoes optionsmustard and bacon options


When the server comes, my student can now share what she is ordering without intervention from her mother or me to create independence. Independence for the win!

I keep all these items in a bag for her along with a dry erase board for her to use.  This helps her to see the amount of each hamburger better. She can practice using money and rounding up for the amount she needs. This was fairly easy to adapt for her. The restaurants she chose didn't have a menu available in large print or images only. They do have an online menu, but no pictures of the hamburger. While she is able to read, it can be a struggle and we (mom and I) wanted her to have a stress-free lunch. My only advice here is to know your student when you are adapting something like this. I rely heavily on my student and/or their parents when I create things. I've only made the one menu at this time since this is a new activity. More menus will be coming soon and we're all excited for her!

Student looking at adapted menu

  • Restuarant choice sheet
  •  Menu sheet
  •  Condiment sheet
  • Dry erase marker
  • White board
  • Money to purchase items


  1. Make a list of four local restaurants agreed upon onto a sheet using real pictures and large font
  2. Have the student make choice of place using a dry erase marker on laminated sheet
  3. Schedule outing date and time
  4. Make a menu for hamburgers and drinks, and condiment choices sheet using real pictures
  5. Once at the restaurant, have student circle choices using dry erase marker
  6. When the server comes, have student independently show them their choices
  7. Practice hamburger pricing and round-up for student to practice money concepts
  8. Assist with counting money for the price of the burger after eating time is complete

This activity can be used with younger students in a school or home setting by creating a "practice" or role playing activity with a pretend restaurant.

Collage of creating independence in restaurants