Today, I’m grateful for birthday parties.
My son, Gilbert, has high-functioning autism so birthday parties are usually a bit of a two-edged sword for him. He doesn’t get invited to too many and when he does we worry about how it will go. Will he be bothered by the balloons, will he be affected by noisy party blowers, will he take turns when having a go at the pinata, will he eat appropriately?
Birthday parties, like all social occasions, are a minefield for those with autism. The fear, the anxiety, the awkwardness all seem to be magnified at such occasions. It can be very tempting to take the easy way out and not attend, particularly when you don’t know other people going.
Today, we went to a birthday party for one of my son’s classmates so we knew the kids going and knew the family giving the party. My son helped wrap the present (after I eased him through the pain of seeing what it was and accepting that it was not for him…) and wrote in the card. When we got there he happily gave the present to the birthday boy and went off and played with his friends.
That is the most surreal sentence I have ever written. He willingly left my side and spent the rest of the party with the other boys. There were no meltdowns, no tantrums, no sensory issues. He ate appropriately, played well and most importantly, really enjoyed himself. It was the best party experience that we have ever had and I was so proud of how far he has progressed in the last few years.
I took the rare opportunity of uninterrupted adult interaction to talk to the other parents about their plans for their kids in the coming year. We have decided to transition our son into a mainstream class at our local school and it was interesting to see what his classmates will be doing next year.
While we all share concerns about the decisions we are making (I don’t think we’ll ever be 100% certain we are doing the right thing!) we all share a love of our kids and a determination to give them the best start we can. Hopefully we will all stay in touch beyond this year as it would be sad to see an end to the friendships our kids have so carefully cultivated.
So I’m grateful for this birthday party as it allowed my son to have a positive, independent social experience and allowed me to connect with other equally anxious parents – role reversal, anyone?
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Wow, Kirsty, what an entrance! I’m so happy for you and for your boy. I also love a birthday party and I’m so glad he got to get in there and experience the simple fun of a big day for someone else. I hope you all stay in touch too!! x
Thanks for taking the time to come by and visit my blog – you must be exhausted each weekend! I enjoyed writing my grateful post and hope to be able to keep contributing. Today’s was so easy as I was so proud of my boy and the progress he has made! It’s the simple things that often make the most impact – I will never take any of it for granted…
What a wonderful time your son must have had & a wonderful time for you too.
Thanks Kelli – we did have a great time today and I was so proud of how he enjoyed himself and how independent he was. Hoping it continues for his next party next weekend (it’s either flood or famine, isn’t it?)
Kirsty, I so enjoyed reading your blog, I have cousin with a child with Autism, it’s been a far harder road for both of them than I can ever imagine. I am so glad you stopped by my blog and hope you will come back again , maybe follow 🙂 I’m just about to scroll through again and find out how to follow you xx Ava
Thanks for stopping by and leaving such a lovely comment. I hope some of my posts help people understand a little about the challenges of autism but I hope they also show some of the amazing gifts it also brings. Have followed your blog too, I am in need of inspiration in my life and your blog definitely fits that bill! Looking forward to seeing and reading more!
Wow – that was a heart wrenching post. It made me realise how much I take for granted that my 3 boys don’t have to go through the fear and anxiety with birthday parties. Congrats on a successful outing.
PS – thanx for putting me onto Maxabella’s blog – it’s a very different sort of blog than I’m used to reading but it’s awesome.
David, thanks for reading it. I don’t always share my posts with my friends but I wanted to share this one as I was proud and it was a great day. Let’s just hope it wasn’t a one-off as he has another party to go to next week! Thank goodness he will have the school holidays to recover from it all… I will take the time to have a read of your blog too, been meaning to for a while but have never quite got there…glad you enjoyed Maxabella’s blog, it is one of my favorites!
How wonderful! I am so happy your boy had a positive and successful time with his peers.
You know, no parent ever feels 100% sure about what they are doing. Mine is 22 this year and I still question myself.
Thanks for that Sara – makes me feel a little better that I’m not alone in not knowing all the answers!
Was so happy to read this post! Brought tears to my eyes…I could sense the enormity of relief when your son was able to integrate and socialise at the party. It is true, no matter what our situation, we just want the best for our children xx
That is so true Cathy – it was wonderful to see what he was capable of! He has been talking about ‘his friends’ all week, which is also a welcome change!
WHoa! I am just so happy for you. That is wonderful. I know that birthday parties are something that I am worried about. Large groups of people, loud noises, unfamiliar social expectations … we haven’t been to a birthday outside of the family for a while. I am so glad that you had a positive experience.
This year I am planning on doing the birthday party again for the kids (we didn’t do it last year). While I am scared. I hope that with some planning it will be OK. Your post has given me so much hope.
Thanks for sharing on Life on the Spectrum!!
Thanks Bronwyn, I hope your party planning goes well. We’re off to another party in a few weeks, fingers crossed he’ll cope with that okay too, but whatever happens at least we will have given it a go!
Isn’t is just fabulous when a special occasion like this goes well for our special kids 🙂
It was a great day and it gives me hope for future outings – we have another party coming up in a few weeks, fingers crossed he’ll cope with that one too!