Changing the Way We Celebrate Birthdays with Autism
Birthdays can be hard for my family. My son has autism and with it comes difficulty connecting with others. He’s always wanted to play with other kids, but he lacked the social skills to navigate friendship and play. He doesn’t process things quickly enough due to a processing disorder, so when kids are asking him to stop something, it doesn’t always compute for him. This results in difficulty forming friendships and retaining them.
I say birthdays are difficult because usually no one comes to his parties. A couple of years ago, despite inviting multiple families to celebrate his day with us, only one showed up, and they were two hours late. Really, he just wanted people to show up and give him gifts because that is what he has seen happen to his sister.
Birthdays are also hard for me with his sister because a lot of kids will show up for her birthday. I always feel torn like it’s not fair for her to have a party when hardly anyone shows up for her brother’s parties. She gets a ton of presents, and he does not. But it’s not fair for her to never have parties either.
The first year we were in Washington State, we invited probably at least seven kids (and one of his teachers) from school and all but only one came! I was in shock! And he was in heaven with all the presents. It was such a wonderful blessing.
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Last year, I had a new idea, and I think we’ll continue with it for the time being and do parties maybe for only significant birthdays. For D, he has had an obsession with pirates for years. People with autism often have one subject they are passionate about, and for him it’s pirates. I found a company here in Seattle, Emerald City Pirates, that does pirate cruises. We surprised him with a day cruise, and he was in heaven. The staff was incredible with my pirate-loving boy who happens to have autism. The new Pirates of the Caribbean movie had just come out, so we made it into a full pirate day and watched the movie too. It was a spectacular family day, and he had a fabulous time. His sister was jealous. She wanted an “experience” birthday too!
Our lives tend to be a little different than other families that don’t have a child with autism, but we can still have fun and make the most of it.
Just an ordinary Mom who has a child with autism, and a husband in law enforcement and the military. I spend my spare time advocating for families who have special needs. I write about our life and my thoughts while residing in Washington State.
This is article was featured in Issue 74 – Every Voice Matters