Birthday Parties and Autism

My son Aiden does not get invited to many birthday parties. Usually about once per year.

Owen gets invited to many birthday parties in a year. And now Olivia has joined in on the birthday party train.

And it makes Aiden very sad. It makes me sad too.

Don't get me wrong, I know why he doesn't get invited. He has Autism and Autism makes birthday parties tricky.

Here is how it usually goes...

1. Aiden arrives for the party.

He is unbelievably excited to give his friend the special gift he has chosen for them but he is a little nervous too because he doesn't know what will happen.

New things can be very stressful for a kid with Autism, even new things that they are very excited about.

2. Aiden goes nuts with excitement over seeing his friends and the thrill of a birthday party. 

After all he only does this a couple times a year at most. This excitement causes him to overwhelm his friends and their parents.

Kids with Autism usually don't do personal boundaries very well. Many prefer not to be touched but some, like my son, regularly invade people's personal spaces.

3. Time to play

This is usually when things go well for a few minutes... until someone does something that Aiden doesn't agree with or understand. Then the tears and the fighting will begin. Parent intervention is required.

Kids with Autism usually don't do transitions well. When kids play together the rules of the game are fluid, things change quickly and this is not a problem for most kids. A child with Autism can quickly find himself lost and confused and frustrated. They just start to figure out the rules of the first game and everyone has already moved on to the next game.

4. Aiden tells everyone what game they SHOULD be doing.

Sometimes this goes over well and everyone thinks it is a great idea and Aiden is ecstatic.

Most of the time this creates conflict. The kids don't understand why Aiden doesn't want to play the game with them, Aiden doesn't understand why the kids don't want to play his game. Aiden takes this as a personal attack. This results in anger and tears and more required parent intervention.

Kids with Autism tend to be very focused on the things they love and they have an extremely hard time understanding why the whole world doesn't love the same things they do.

5. Time to eat

For most kids this is great! Yay food! For Aiden it is as if someone has announced the death of fun. Loud complaints and tears ensue.

Transitions suck for kids with Autism

6. Aiden hates the food

All the other kids are thrilled with whatever kid food has been placed before them and dive right in. Aiden doesn't touch a thing and refuses to sit still.

Autism comes with a whole host of sensory issues, one of which can be food aversions. Many Autistic kids have a very self-inflicted limited diet.

7. Time to eat cake

Aiden likes this part. The other kids like this part. Everyone is happy.

Autistic kids are kids too

8. Time to play again

The kids are now all hyped up on sugar and chaos ensues. Aiden goes into full ADHD hyper mode and freaks out kids and parents alike.

Autistic kids do not do well with chaos. They all react differently to it- some withdraw, some get hyper, some throw a fit... chaos is not good.

9. Time to open presents

This can be tough for a lot of kids. Watching someone else get presents that you can't have is stressful. Most kids have figured out how to at least pretend they are happy for the other child. Aiden gets sad and says things like "I wish I had that".

Autistic kids have a hard time putting themselves in someone else's shoes. They also don't like or fake-it well. If they don't like something you will know about it. If they love something you will know it. On the up side you will always know they are telling truth.

10. Time to go home

By this time Aiden is completely over-stimulated and he begins to weep and wail that he will never see his friends again. He throws himself on the ground in protest and abject despair.

Many Autistic kids live in the "right now" which can come with some very strong emotions.

So ya, I get why he doesn't get invited to many parties.

But the older he gets the more he KNOWS he doesn't get invited to the parties of the kids he really believes are his friends. And that is heart-breaking.

It is Olivia's birthday party this weekend and Owen is invited to another friend's birthday party on the same day. When Aiden realized this he said " so I don't get to go to any parties? Olivia only wants girls and princesses at her party and none of my friends ever invite me to their parties. It's just not fair."

And you are right Aiden. It is just not fair.

But you know what is beautiful? Owen immediately said "I will call my friend and ask if you can come with me and we will have fun together" and Olivia said " no Aiden you can come to my party and be the Prince!".

* insert mommy bursting with pride and crying here*

My kids are awesome.


Karyn Climans said…
As a parent of two special needs kids, I know how heartbreaking it is to watch your kid struggle with friendships and everyday occasions. My heart goes out to your son. Life simply isn't fair for some kids!

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