Children on the autism spectrum can have unique interests. My son, who is on that spectrum, has gone though many phases. Some have lasted longer than others, and not every one has been socially acceptable for a boy.
The train and superhero phase was pretty easy to accommodate, but when he decided he wanted a butterfly birthday party one year, it was not exactly easy to pull off for a boy. I’m not proud to admit that I convinced him to go a different direction and recycled some of the leftover superhero decorations from the year before.
Accepting your special needs child doesn’t happen overnight. It happens over time. It doesn't come naturally for any parent to accept all of their quirks and interests.
It’s hard in the beginning to navigate the course, learning special diets, possibly medications, and scheduling the various therapy appointments. Eventually, though, it becomes second nature to you.
You learn how to help your child avoid meltdowns by not subjecting him or her to environments that cause breakdowns. You learn what lingo to use when talking to the specialists in your child’s Individualized Education Plan meeting. And you finally embrace who your child is.
My son is making leaps and bounds in his development, and right along with him I’m learning the lesson of acceptance.
This year my son wanted a New York City-themed birthday party. In school he had to do a report on the state of New York. It just so happened that he was born in New York City. While sharing his report with the class, he felt such pride that he was born somewhere that many of the children had never been to. And let’s be honest: NYC is a pretty cool place to be born!
Finding NYC decorations for a party was not easy. But that didn't stop this crafty-loving-mama!
I printed out subway maps on my home printer and made party hats. I Googled NYC signs, printed some out, and hung them up to make a banner. I also made my own I ♥ NY stickers, attaching them to red solo cups and every guest who entered. I drew a Statue of Liberty on a large piece of paper and printed out torches for “Pin the Torch on Lady Liberty."
With all the pieces in place, the guests arrived. Where was my son?
In his room … playing with his toys … by himself.
He wanted a birthday party, but I don’t think he realized what it would entail. I knew he wouldn’t last long in the large group of family and friends—this type of environment is too overwhelming for him.
He would appear in small spurts to open presents and eat chocolate chip cookies, which we served in lieu of birthday cake, since he doesn’t eat cake. He didn’t play with the other children as they ran around the yard—and maybe no one else noticed. But I did.
And I embraced all of it.
Every time someone asked, “Where’s the birthday boy?” I would smile and say, with a simple shrug of my shoulders, “playing in his room.”
It’s his birthday, and I accept him and how he wants to celebrate it.