By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Green Tree School in Germantown is partnering with a local diner to educate area restaurants on how to serve children with special needs. The purpose of the partnership is to create understanding.

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“The child basically tore up the menu.”

Dimitrios Kolovos is one of the owners of Penrose Diner in South Philadelphia. Last month, a family of autistic child attempted to eat at his restaurant, but left angry after a brief argument with diner staff.

“My employees were not aware that the child was autistic.”

Kolovos apologized to the family, but news of the incident soon went viral. When Lou Berman, who’s on the Board of the Green Tree School and father of an autistic son, heard about the story, he decided to reach out to Penrose.

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“When people see autism they don’t know what to make of it. There have been many occasions that we’ve felt less than welcome. In this particular case, when it is understood that there is a child and that the child has certain challenges, it kind of changes the dynamic.”

All of Green Tree’s students have special needs, so the school will host monthly seminars to educate restaurant owners.

“There are a number of ways to circumvent those problems and we have a curriculum that can do that. One way {is for parents} to plan ahead and to not let things happen,” School Executive Director Herman Axelrod says.

“The other thing is to help people understand the nature of children with autism.  They have communication problems, socialization problems and a lot of involuntary movements where their hands may go up in the air or spin. Talking with the people with restaurants about these characteristics help them understand.”

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Penrose will attend the first seminar scheduled for next month. For more info on how to schedule a seminar at your business, go to www.greentreeschool.org.