Autism, Birthdays, and Friends
So, I’m looking at the date on my most recent blog entry and realizing that it was nearly a year ago. Oops! Where does time go? For whatever it’s worth, I’m back!
My son C’s 5th birthday was this week!
Those are C’s birthday cookies. Yeah, that’s right, I said cookies.
See, there are all you Pinterest-pinning moms out there who are all like, “I made my son an Under-The-Sea 3-tiered cake with clownfish and turtles and 12 kinds of underwater flora. It was adorbs!”
…while I’m all like, “Yeah, well, I opened up a pack of Oreos and arranged them on a plate to look sorta-kinda like the number 5. Because autism moms ROCK!”
Okay, before you judge… C hates cake and ice cream. As in, if you try to feed him the offending substance, he will scream and cry as though you were force-feeding him poison.
But he loooooooves Oreos!
This was last year’s “Birthday Pile of Cookies In Lieu of Cake”:
Because Connor spent most of his time in 1:1 intensive therapy settings with adults, he didn’t get much of a chance to interact with other kids. There was his best buddy E that he’s known practically since birth and is like a sister to him; and S, a teenager with autism who C thinks is awesome, but being about 11 years apart makes it rough to plan playdates. But hey, if you have 2 good friends in the world, you’re blessed. Right? He also has 2 cousins that he enjoys spending time with, but they weren’t able to make it to the party.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago as hubby and I started talking about planning C’s 5th birthday party, and it dawned on me: Who would we invite? C has been in his 1:1 therapy placement for 2 years now, and although he’s made tremendous progress in his language and academic skills, he still has very few friends.
Okay, okay, I know what some of you are thinking: That this is my feeble attempt to ride on the coat-tails of Colin, the adorable 11-yr-old who recently told his mom not to bother throwing him a birthday party because he has no friends. His wonderful mom started a Facebook page to prove him wrong — that there were, in fact, people in the world who care about him and want to be his friend. The page now has over 2 million likes and Colin has become somewhat of an Internet sensation.
That’s not my intent at all. Although I’m happy for Colin, I wouldn’t want my son C to have over 2 million “friends”. I’m a Helicopter Mom, remember? No, I’m simply trying to process the unspoken worry that has been on this momma’s heart all week…
Will my son have friends as he gets older?
There are so many kids like Colin who get bullied and shunned by their peers for being different. My response so far to protect C from this danger has been to keep him in a 1:1 environment. Therapeutically and educationally, that was a wise choice, but socially? I haven’t been able to give him what he needs.
We decided to forego planning a big party and just celebrate as a family (C, hubby, and me), following C’s lead to see what he wanted to do. Our day consisted of a trip to a local restaurant that serves C’s favorite chocolate milk, eating Oreos, opening his birthday gifts (a Spider-man skateboard and scooter, with a matching helmet and protective gear), and watching Spider-Man cartoons. Because that’s what C wanted, and he was perfectly happy!
However, there was one other event: We toured a nearby school for children with autism that offers small classroom instruction in addition to individualized therapy. C was so excited to visit the “new school” that when the tour was over, he said, “Let’s go again!” So I took the plunge that every Helicopter Mom dreads and decided to try something new; I enrolled C at the “new school”. He starts in 2 weeks. His current therapists have done such great work and it will be difficult to say good-bye, but I believe this will be a good move for C. A chance to make new friends.
There is one leftover item from Connor’s
“5th Birthday Party That Did Not Happen”…
A Ginormous Monkey Piñata.
Well, not this exact one, but there is a similar monstrosity hanging in my dining room at the moment. Because where else does one store a Ginormous Monkey Piñata (GMP)? Hubby and I thought about filling it with candy and letting C have a go at it by himself… but when I considered the consequences of allowing C unfettered access to several pounds of candy, I decided to hold off. We will most likely store GMP in the attic until next year, when we’re ready to throw C a birthday party again. Our hope is that by that time, C will have lots of friends to invite to his party.