Sunday, April 22, 2012

I'm Here For The Party

In the recent weeks we’ve be fortunate to have attended two great birthday parties. Any parent of a child on the spectrum knows what this can mean. It’s a bitter-sweet feeling. You are happy that your child was invited to the party. That means that they are either fitting in, or some parent is making an effort not to exclude them. Either way this is a great thing. The other part of this is that you never know what is going to happen at the party. Is my child going to ruin everything with a sudden outburst, meltdown, or reaction? Will he ever be invited back to another party?

The first thing you have to do is focus on the fact that your child has been invited to a party. That means someone has taken the time to include your kid in their birthday celebration. There is nothing better for a child with autism than interaction with their peers. I’ve hit on this in the past, but it is a great thing to have kids that may or may not understand your child’s issues, but do accept that he is different. We’ve been blessed with a great bunch of classmates for Konner. They seem to make an effort to include Konner in everything and for that Jen and I appreciate them.

Part of this may be because we’ve explained to many of them from a young age what issues Konner has, and what they can do to help. He’s been with many of these kids since head start, so that helps as well.

The first party we attended was Konner’s own. Okay, so he had to attend this one, but he invited many of his friends. Most of them showed up. We asked him where he wanted to go and who he wanted to invite. He decided on Burger King and so we booked it. By the way, if your child was not invited I’m sorry. He made the list and probably just forgot. We also didn’t want him to be overwhelmed.

This was a pretty good idea because the kids just spent most of the time in the “tubes” and played well together. This party went off without a hitch really. I have no real stories to share. This may sound boring, but if you have a party, for an autistic child, and there are no issues this is a good thing. We have evolved so much from when he was three and we decided on Chuck E. Cheese. That turned out to be a horrible idea. When he was two we had a packed house and he had a meltdown and ended up crashing out in his room. However, every year it gets better.

The second party was at his friend Jaxon’s house. He was excited to attend and off we went on the rainy Sunday afternoon. The hostess was great and had everything planned out including games to keep them busy. This was especially good because of the weather. All of the children ran to the door when Konner came and ushered him into the house. This was a great feeling for me. I felt like they all seemed to want him there. I know that sounds silly to some, but you get a feeling sometimes that kids just tolerate your child because they’ve been told to; or that they are coddling him because they know he’s different. However, when the other kids arrived they all rushed to the door to meet them as well. This is a good thing because they didn’t treat Konner any differently. This is what you want to see as a parent. You want to see that your child is an equal and not a burden or outcast.

That’s not to say that he wasn’t different at the party. He has some things that he did that were different from the other children, but they all seemed to just go along with it or ignore it. He was louder than most there, and would jump around and scream. He began to go into his pace march halfway through the party, but it was quickly halted by another game, or ice cream and cake. He also pretended to be a balloon (something that he reminded me as he is reading this over my shoulder). He hid under the table at one point which caused the others to want to join. When the other kids decided to sing karaoke he grabbed the microphone and screamed really loud instead of singing, but the others seemed to get a kick out of this.

When the group decided to have a “freeze dance” none of the other children wanted to dance. They were all too shy to dance around their classmates. Not Konner, he flopped and shook and jumped around like nobody was watching. “I died next,” said Konner (again reading over my shoulder. He’s helping me write today). This means that he fell to the floor motionless as the song stopped.

All in all he did a great job. I was proud of the way he acted and the way the other children accepted him as one of their own. This is not always the case. I know this, and know, again, that we have been blessed with a great bunch of friends for Konner.

I want to say thank you to the parents and children for being so supportive of him. It means a lot to me and Jennifer.

Disclaimer: I am in no way claiming to be an expert. I’m just a father who is trying to learn as much about Autism as I can to help my child. I hope that you all can learn from me, and I from you. I ask anyone who has questions or comments about something I have written, or autism, please contact me at I will try to answer questions as I have time, and if I find it interesting enough I may touch on it in my column.

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