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Autism: Birthday Party or No Birthday Party? March 10, 2010

Posted by hopeauthority in Autism, Children, Family, Parenting, special needs.
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29 comments

Well, it’s that time of the year again. Time to plan Fabio’s birthday party. He wants an indoor pool party (we still have snow here).

And I won’t even get into how bothered I am by the fact that he’s turning EIGHT. Where did all that time go? And yet, sometimes it feels like he should be 20 because he’s been 2 for about 10 years…

As I was making out the short guest list, I realized that only one of the kids who had autism had had a party of his own and even that kid just had one or two. And its not a financial thing. The moms, all of whom I know well and for at least 3 years, offer these reasons:

1. He doesn’t “get”  the birthday party concept, so why spend the time and money?

2. He doesn’t “get” the presents thing.

3. He doesn’t interact with his peers, so why bother if he won’t even notice anyone’s there.

4. I can’t predict how he’ll behave on that day and if he’s “off”, then it’ll all be a waste.

5. I’m tired of family or friends complaining that he doesn’t come up to them. They don’t get it and I have no patience.

6. He won’t know what he’s missing.

On one hand, I can relate to a lot of what they feel. And yet, even with hesitation, I booked the party today. For this Saturday. (Not too last minute, right?)

Maybe I’m just wishful, but I think Fabio does understand that kids should have a birthday celebration. And I think I’d be sad if the only cake was the one at the dinner table with just the four of us. Is it just that I can’t let the dream of typical die? Maybe. And I’d beat myself up with Italian guilt if I did actually hurt his feelings by not having a party with his peers. But that’s me and it’s what I hope is right for my son.

I’d love to know what others think about having traditional birthday parties for their autistic kids. Do you or don’t you? Do you do it only for your typical kids? And what about the guests: a mix of typical and special needs children or not? What kind of party do you have (ie pool, bowling, etc.)?

Share your thoughts here.

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Picking a Perfect Autism Birthday Party Place January 6, 2009

Posted by hopeauthority in Autism, Children, humor, Parenting, special needs.
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14 comments

How’s that for a tall order?

Is there even such a possible thing as the perfect place for an autistic child’s birthday party? Well, we’ve got to try, right?

We’re about 2 months out from ‘C’s 7th birthday. Seven! “Holy crap” as my good friend would say.  Where did the time go? Wasn’t he just two, like, yesterday? No, he was just acting like two yesterday… In any event, it’s time to book something. But what?

As much as my screaming wallet wants one, the home party is out. First of all, we spend way too much time at home all year, so a party here would be no fun at all. Second, I’d have to clean. And I hate that. Really. And most importantly, while ‘C’ would love to go to a friend’s house and play nicely with their toys, I think he’d rip the face off have a problem with his friends playing with his stuff. He’s not that strong of a sharer just yet.

We’ve had great success with indoor swimming parties. Like three in a row for birthdays 3, 4, and 5. Yep, nothing says FUN better than a bitter winter day and wet heads and slippery bodies and strep and swim diapers. Plus my friends really love it when they have to put on their swimsuits right after Christmas and go in the pool with their kids. The alternative is staying behind on the pool deck melting in your wool sweater in a 90 degree room.

Last year’s bowling party went well. Sorta. The kids were great at sitting and waiting their turns. Sorta. They really flung  rolled the ball down the next person’s  their lane. Sometimes. And you haven’t lived until you’ve tasted the bowling alley pizza. Yet, ‘C’ really loved that party. And any party will have me bringing ‘C’s food and cake anyway. 

Do I venture into another venue? Stick with the tried and true?

Anyone have any suggestions? What were the best and worst parties you’ve hosted or gone to?

Autism Birthday Party From Hell December 4, 2008

Posted by hopeauthority in Autism, autism diet, Children, Parenting, school, special needs, specific carbohydrate diet.
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6 comments

About two weeks ago, my son went to the best birthday party ever. Last night, he went to the worst birthday party ever. Ever. Um, did I happen to mention EVER?

Warning: This post is a rant.

I wasn’t going to let him go because it was so inconvenient to work it out for 4:45 on a weeknight, but I felt guilty since it was a boy from his class.  I don’t know the mom, having only met her once…at open school night. I should add that she has a reputation for being very openly anti-school district and has a lawsuit pending over her son’s placement.

I didn’t want my son to miss a chance to have a social outing with his peers, especially at this cool, new indoor inflatables place I’d heard great things about.  So I moved heaven and earth, called in favors, and got to the party…only to find that only one other boy from the class came. But there were plenty of other special needs kids there who were noticeably older and larger than my son. That’s great, I thought. A nice group of like-minded parents.

Boy was I wrong! I never felt so unwelcome and out of place at a party in my life. And as we all know, there are many parties where we can feel out of place. I was wrong to assume that a special needs party would be a safe haven.

So, imagine a giant inflatable double slide reaching right up to the ceiling…about 20 feet high… and having a narrow “staircase” sandwiched between the two slides, which is actually more like a 24 inch wide path with vinyl-covered, built-in 2×4’s as “steps” and durable straps on each side as “railings” to pull yourself up with.

Now, imagine … cajoling your painfully shy and anxious son to try something… ANYTHING… out of the five different inflatable options… sometime before the freakin party is over…  Then, having to coax him and follow him up said staircase from hell without looking like a total doofus and then sliding down it with his little butt crammed ever so snugly in your crotch. Now repeat. Four times. Finally, courage emerges and he goes solo. Life is good.

Enter, Little JackAss.

Out of nowhere, this huge boy of about 10, lunges up the staircase where my son …just behind his 2 friends… is about halfway up.  Little JackAss reaches ‘C’ and doesn’t push past him as I was expecting. Oh, no. Instead, he proceeds to violently push and shove ‘C’ down the staircase! ‘C’ is telling him “Stop that!”, and is holding on to the straps for dear life and looking down to me.

In an instant that felt like an hour and in what I imagine as one of those slow motion movie scenes, I leapt…yes, I can apparently leap when need be… to his defense and was on Little JackAss in a flash, bellowing for him to “Get your hands off of him!” I remember thinking all the while, Where the hell is this kid’s mother?!  Then, from somewhere down below comes the shrill, loud voice of Mother JackAss “Timothy! Keep going up. Right now. You go up. Go!”

Are you friggin kidding me?! That was all? No “Timothy, don’t do that”? No “Timmy, say you’re sorry to that boy”‘? Not even a Mother Jackass-to-Mother  “I’m sorry”? Nope…not a peep.  He made another kid cry 2 minutes later. Same lack of response from  Mother Jackass.

Then as soon as my heart rate went back to normal and I was able to convince my son that it was safe to try the slide again, Party Hostess Mom (who is one of those moms who puts herself before her kid: painted face, big 80’s hair, gym rat) comes over and her first words EVER of conversation to me are (add major negative attitude to the tone): “So, are you happy with how things are this year?” Ever the diplomat, I say that there’s stuff I like and some stuff I don’t.  She actually scoffed at my answer.  (I thought scoffing went out of style with the colonies…)  She can’t let it rest…she proceeds to interrogate me as to why ‘C’ doesn’t have home hours (“the district lies about it only being for academics”), and “Oh, he can talk?” and “Oh, he has extracurricular activities?” Finally, I had been pushed to the point of saying, “Look you don’t even know my son at all. He’s doing very well and we’re happy with his placement and his social activities.” So she walks off in her skin tight gym suit, clearly unsatisfied.

The last offense comes in the party room. Due to ‘C’s special diet, I made him chicken fingers and watermelon and a bottle of water and 2 special cupcakes to replace the pizza and soda and ice-cream cake being served. I’d give my right arm if he could eat those things, but sadly he can’t.

When I took out his food, all eyes were on us like I’d committed some grievious offense. Like I thought he was too good for pizza or something. It was so uncomfortable. We moved on to the cupcake faster than I’d planned just to keep peace and when I took it out, the Hostess Mom asks if its GF. So…thinking she really cared… I briefly explained that it was and it was also CF, SF and grain free and that ‘C’ had some serious dietary issues and unfortunately can’t eat anything that I don’t make from scratch. Up goes the painted-on eyebrow…

Instead of understanding, she says…again with the attitude…”Oh, I thought about doing the GF diet, but I really don’t think it works. Do you really think it works?” Now, these words…without an attitude… are welcome to me as I am happy to explain the diet and how its helped ‘C’ so much over the almost 4 years he’s been on it to anyone who really wants the info.

But when the query is not a positive and genuine request for information, but rather merely a venomous comment from a selfish and ignorant woman… who just got on my last nerve… my attitude changes…

“Well, SINCE YOU ASKED, yes I KNOW its worked for ‘C’ . He continues to make great strides and is so much healthier than he used to be. He sleeps well at night and can pay attention at school.  The diet is not for every child, of course. But… SINCE YOU ASKED… I am SURE it’d help ‘D’. By the look of his red cheeks and dark eye circles, he most definately has a food allergy.”

ZING!  Now go home and sleep with that guilt.

Sorry, I just had to rant. I can handle anyone who is honestly trying their best to help their child. I never preach to people about the diet or any other therapies we’ve tried with ‘C’, and only give advice when asked. Even when I believe strongly that a child looks or behaves like they may have a food allergy, I bite my tongue. I like to think that we all try to make the best decisions for our children.

My only gripe is with the people who put themselves and their needs before their children…especially the loud mouth ones who always have excuses not to try something that may benefit their child and who always blame everyone and everything else for why their child is not progressing.

And a sad note to close on was near the end of the party, when the birthday boy sat next to me and touched my face (touching people’s faces is a stim of his). I turned to him and said warmly and with a big smile “Hey, ‘D’, are you having fun at your birthday party. ‘C’ had a great time!” He smiled back at me. Then I look up at the woman standing on the other side of him (not his mom) and, looking at me like I am a child molester, she asks meanly right in front of  the birthday boy “Do you really think he even knows who you are? How does he know you ?”

Again amazed, I said “Well, yes, I do think he knows who I am. My son is in his class and I was just at the Thanksgiving feast in the classroom last week. So, yes I do think he remembers me.” And I looked back to ‘D’ with a smile. And he touched my face again.

Sometimes, there’s just too many JackAsses in the world.