Family’s Celebration Ends With Tears In Poteau After Woman Directs Hurtful Comments At Autistic Boy

POTEAU, Okla. (KOTV) -- A mom says hurtful words directed towards her autistic son at a Western Sizzlin in Poteau not only brought tears to her eyes but ruined a special dinner for her family.

The dinner was to celebrate a 24th wedding anniversary, Melody Gravitt told our Tulsa CBS affiliate KOTV NEWS6.

She says her 14-year-old autistic son Ronny loves his family, Pikachu, and Western Sizzlin and that the family had been to the restaurant in Poteau more than 100 times.

Melody claims she was making Ronny's plate when a woman "turns to the person next to her and kind of halfway turns to us and says real loud, 'I can't believe they let him out. He should be at home.'"

She says the comment brought made her cry and really upset Ronny's father Ronald Gravitt.

Melody says she then explained to the woman that her son has autism.

"She said, 'Well, back in my day, they locked people up like that."

Ronald told KOTV "I understand it's hard for them to understand if you haven't gone through it or have someone, a loved one that is autistic."

Stacey Weddington with Autism Oklahoma told KOTV that verbal abuse towards people with autism is common.

"Words hurt like a fist hurts," Weddington said. "They don't leave a bruise on the outside that you can see, but they leave a bruise on the inside of their heart and soul."

Ronny told KOTV "People are mean, and I don't know why."

Melody said the whole reason she's sharing her story is to educate people and keep other families from going through the same experience.

The owner of the Western Sizzlin in Poteau is a grandpa to a special needs child, according to NEWS6. After hearing about what happened to the Gravitt's, he invited the family back to the restaurant to enjoy their anniversary meal on the house.