The Reason Everyone Is Praising This Texas Chick-Fil-A

In a year marked, as Bobby Flay recently wrote for CBS, by "scary moments. Some clearly were more dire than others," it's the small acts of kindness that keep us going. In mid-December, Marlee Olivarez went with her eight-year-old son, Matthew, to a Chick-fil-A in Edinburg, Texas, and ordered a breakfast bowl. (Props to Matthew for knowing what's what at Chick-fil-A.) But Matthew, as Olivarez later explained on Facebook, didn't want any ordinary bowl, instead "he asked if they can separate the ingredients (egg, chicken, hash browns, & cheese) because he doesn't like his food to touch each other and he doesn't like the cheese melted a certain way." Chick-Fil-A complied, without thinking twice. 

Matthew is on the high-functioning side of the autism spectrum. And, as Olivarez later told local WSPA, going out with her son is often a challenge because of other peoples' reactions to him. Olivarez started noticing the signs before her son was diagnosed a year and a half ago. "He would put his Cheerios in a straight line, and he would color coordinate his racecars, the type of cars, the type of trucks, in a line also, at about two and a half. Also, around that age, that is when they're starting to get picky with foods, and so he didn't like certain textures of foods. He preferred things to be separated from each other," Olivarez recounted.

How a Chick-fil-A order became an autism awareness opportunity

Marlee Olivarez wasn't just impressed that Edinburg's Chick-fil-A fulfilled Matthew's order — it was also that its employees were curious, compassionate, and understanding. In her subsequent Facebook post, Olivarez explained that Chick-fil-A's local manager approached her to ask about the unique order. "That was a perfect time to spread awareness and share how the mind and preferences of an individual with ASD work," Olivarez reflected, "I explained to him why & he was so glad I shared that tid bit. His response 'I am so glad you shed some light to me and the employees today and thank you all so much for coming. Please do not hesitate to ask for it like this again.'"

When Olivarez's post recounting the incident went viral (picking up comments to the tune of "I always knew Chick-fil-A was a gift from the Lord, but this just cements that to me!"), her son's story garnered both local and national media attention. "It brings tears to my eyes that I was able to be the primary forefront of awareness in my hometown of the Rio Grande Valley," Olivarez wrote in a follow-up post on Facebook. "Awareness doesn't just stop at home, it is a continuous snowball effect and must reach the overall community. Thank you to each of you for sharing & reaching out."