16-year-old McDonald's worker praised for helping boy with autism

A 16-year-old McDonald’s employee is being praised for going above and beyond to help a 7-year-old customer with autism.

TaQualliyia Patterson, a high school sophomore, was working at a McDonald’s in Indianapolis on Saturday when she overheard a conversation between a mom and the McDonald’s employee taking the mom’s lunch order.

“A classmate brought one of the toys to school and Leif saw it and spent the next two weeks hardly talking about anything else with us,” Kandel told ABC News. “He gets really fixated on things and creates stories around toys.”

“I had gotten curious about what was going on because I heard something about Teen Titans and I knew we didn’t have anymore,” Patterson told ABC News of the popular Happy Meal toy. “I knew there weren’t anymore in stock.”

The mom requesting the Happy Meal toy was Bonnie Kandel, who was asking for her 7-year-old son, Leif.

Leif, a first-grader with autism, had seen a classmate with the Teen Titans toys and wanted one for himself.

Kandel saw some Teen Titans toys in the Happy Meal display and asked if she could purchase those for Leif. Patterson overheard that encounter and took it upon herself to explain the situation to her manager.

With the manager’s approval, Patterson took the display behind the counter as Kandel and her family were eating lunch and spent 15 minutes dismantling the display to get the toys for Leif.

Patterson, who is known as TQ by her McDonald's peers, brought the toys to the family’s table and later brought out a complimentary milkshake for Leif, too.

“He was overjoyed,” Kandel said of her son. “Anytime we leave the house he sticks them into his coat pocket. He’s still overjoyed.”

Patterson's good deed was shared was by Kandel on the Love What Matters Facebook page, where it has received tens of thousands of likes and shares.

Kandel shared the story because she said she wanted to provide hope. She said she and her family have been very stressed since the November election about what could happen to funding for educational services for children like Leif.

“For her to reach out and show such empathy to my son and in front of my other children, for them to witness that, it was just a glimmer of hope that we really needed,” Kandel said. “I shared it in hopes of other people seeing and recognizing that there are people on the ground doing really amazing things and that can make all the difference in someone’s day.”

The owner of the McDonald’s franchise where Patterson has worked for the past two years said both she and the restaurant’s manager have family members who are on the autism spectrum. She also described herself as surprised by the reaction to Patterson’s good dead.

“We’re all a little taken back that this is that big of a deal because that’s what we do every day,” Marilyn Sleppy told ABC News. “Our whole thing is just to try to make it right for the customer, whatever it takes.”

Patterson will be rewarded for her good deed with a monetary award, according to Sleppy, who owns seven McDonald’s restaurants throughout Indianapolis.

Patterson also received words of praise from McDonald’s Illinois-based corporate office.

“We are lovin’ it and proud of how TQ went that extra mile to create a special feel-good moment for this family,” a McDonald’s spokeswoman told ABC News in a statement. "She is an example of how at McDonald’s we try every day to put our customers at the center of everything we do."

GMA, ABC


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