Andy was 9 last Friday and although normally birthdays are times of celebration for families of children with a disability it can be a bitter sweet time. It can bring home the impact of developmental delay and often leads to making comparisons with other children. It is very difficult to buy presents for a child with no conventional interest in material things. Jen and I are getting better in this regard however and do our best to see things in context.
This year was possibly the best birthday yet thanks to Jen’s careful planning and the kindness of so many family and local people. As a parent you just want to give your child extra happiness and love on their birthday and we are no different in that respect. For the first time we invited some of Andy’s friends to our wee gathering and it went really well. Andy was so pleased to see his friends as well as family and Jen was a relieved mum having put so much into it. The fear of no one making an appearance is a very real concern for autism families. Deficits in social skills can make it so very difficult for children with autism to make friends.
On Andy’s birthday itself I had the day off work and got to spend the day with Andy Jenny and my mum also. I prefer to keep things simple and familiar for Andy on special days as it increases the chances of avoiding difficulties. We had a lovely day playing with Andy in the garden on his swing and gently exploring his gifts at his own pace. In the afternoon we visited Benmore Gardens cafe for juice and coffees and cakes. Andy did really well and when the manager discovered it was our special boy’s birthday she presented him with a gift! It really was a lovely touch and makes us all feel accepted in one of Andy’s favourite places. We drove home in good spirits and on arrival discovered Sergeant John Forrest of Dunoon Police at our front door. As soon as Andy saw him he became very animated, waving his hands in excitement. Sergeant John had come by to wish his number one fan Happy Birthday. Andy got out the car and greeted Sergeant John by smiling and tapping at his radio and vest and Police hat. Sergeant John presented Andy with a card from all the Police Officers at the station. Then he asked Andy if he would like to see the Police car. I have rarely saw my precious boy so excited as he climbed straight in to have a look around the Police car. When Andy eventually let Sergeant John get back to his duties we were all feeling great. Andy rounded off his day enjoying some water play with the hose in the back garden . Later as we reflected on the events of the day I realised that not only had the kind folk of our town made Andy’s day a memorable one, they had also left his parents feeling a lot better about a birthday with autism.
We are looking forward to next year already!
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