A RESTAURANT has come under fire after staff allegedly told a family they should have phoned ahead if they were bringing an autistic child.

Mum Amy Ellis claims two-year-old son Leo was discriminated against during a family meal on Friday at The Cherry Tree, Rochford after a row broke out over the screaming child.

Restaurant owner Gary Downham insists comments have been taken out of all proportion, he was threatened with violence and has reported it to police.

Miss Ellis said: “My two-year-old son is autistic, as well as partially deaf and epileptic. “He is quite vocal and uses his voice to settle himself.”

When a supervisor came over to tell her complaints had been received about the noise she explained his condition and the supervisor came back with colouring books and crayons.

It is alleged during a subsequent heated conversation a supervisor told the family “why didn’t you let us know when you booked that you were bringing an autistic child so we could warn the other customers”.

Amy said: “I could not believe what I was hearing, we had never had to do that before and the medical needs of my child are no one’s business.”

Owner Gary Downham told how he was threatened and had to call in the police.

He said: “It was noticed that one of the young children would not stop screaming or shouting and whilst our restaurant is child-friendly, the level of the screaming was such that it was difficult to hold a conversation.”

He said he and staff stepped in to help, but were abused and threatened.

He said: “I have seen the public outcry on social media and am extremely concerned at the way in which a genuine and sincere attempt to help the family, has been turned.

“One key point appears to have been taken out of context, which is that we asked if the family had called ahead to advise of the fact that they had an autistic son.

“This comment was not discriminatory, but rather it is the case that we go to great lengths to accommodate our customers.”