A couple of days ago my youngest celebrated his 5th Birthday. It was a simple affair. There wasn't a party at the local bounce house place or at the high priced amusement palace for kids. It was celebrated with people who matter the most to this child and in a way that helped him celebrate on his terms.
As a non verbal child, that has a host of interesting quirks, the mainstream idea of birthday parties for children doesn't work for him. He is happy to celebrate his birthday in a way that makes him feel happy and loved, not overloaded and over stimulated. For him, a small cake and balloons were what made that child's day.
Now, I don't expect the outside world to understand that. I just don't. And some might view my approach to birthday parties with autism a bit lax. A day where he can get balloons, cake and presents to unwrap. Its a day he knows that people who love him, come together, and make him feel special. And just because We don't do what the norm does on birthdays, doesn't mean that thought wasn't put into this child's special day.
My son loves balloons. Balloons with his favorite things on them. Trains, school buses, Sesame Street, colourful ones and ones that sing. And if that was all he got for his birthday, that kid would be golden. Its a very simple thing.But he loves them. But he knows that something special is going to happen to him, when he sees balloons. So on his birthday, I take him to the grocery store for him to get his birthday balloons. This kid knows as soon as we get to where the helium tanks are that special things are coming to him. The shopping cart is practically vibrating. For me as a parent, there is nothing more special than to see your child in absolute sheer joy over something as simple as mylar balloons. And the balloon lady knows who we are. She takes the time to make sure that there is lots of ribbon and makes lots of curls as she knows that he is fascinated with them. Once he has his treasure, we continue on our way. And yes I am the parent that is doing the rest of her shopping with a child that very loudly expressing his total joy over his balloons. To be honest, I don't care how everyone else sees that. But its the comments that get to me.
"Does he even realize it's his birthday?"
" Oh it must be so hard not to be able to throw him a party like the other kids."
Here's the thing. People celebrate things differently. Autistic persons, are no different. Some people are low key and some people aren't. But to sit there and ask me if my child even recognizes his own birthday, well he does. Just in his own way. No he doesn't understand age, but honestly, what child does at this stage in life? And its not hard to throw him a party, where he feels special. So what if it is a party of the four most important people in his life, surrounded by the things he loves in a place that he feels comfortable in.
Celebrating a person's life on this planet, should be about them. And if that means you buy them an ungodly amount of balloons, as that is what gives them the most joy on their special day, then so be it.
My son celebrated his 5th birthday in a way that was easy for him. He knew he was loved. And at the end of the day, that is all that matters.