I’m sure many parents of special needs worry about their kids being invited to parties, and of course, having people turn up to theirs.
We are right in the thick of this issue.
[Photo is Seb, a young autistic child in the UK – In this article HERE his mum shares her journey with Seb in school, not getting birthday party invites, and general autism challenges she faces. I’m lucky. My autistic daughter is usually an adorable girl, rarely complains and loves to help and please. Seb’s mum shares how her son has good days, and bad days. She describes him as Jekyll and Hyde. I think she will have more challenges when he is older, she said Seb often got “violent and aggressive”, and he’s only 7. I’m sure by 17, violent will take on a new meaning. I just hope it doesn’t work out for them, how it did for this boy HERE.]
MAINSTREAM SCHOOL & AUTISM
My 9yo daughter with autism goes to mainstream school full time, with a support aid. She hated special needs school, she didn’t connect well with the other kids, I think they placed her in a class with kids way different to her special needs, so she really started to hate it by the end of grade one.
It took a while to convince the mainstream school to take her full time (by then she was 3 days mainstream, 2 days special needs school) and she really started to physically object to going to the special needs school.
We knew the time had come by the end of grade one. We wrote to the relevant people in the schools, and within a month the full time change had taken place.
In grade one my daughter was so happy. All the girls loved her, would hug her hello, they didn’t notice her autistic traits back then, the stemming (waving arms around when she gets excited) or her inability to speak properly, even her nappy pretty much wasn’t noticed (don’t worry, by grade two the nappies were gone during the day!) (nighttime nappies are still here I’m afraid) 🙁
Boys played with her, girls wanted to be around her, she was happy. By grade two she had a “best friend” (another girl with limited skills) and the school accommodated her inability to be “like normal kids”. So for the most part it was a great life for her. She is such a social girl, and being able to socialise and connect with the other kids was probably 95% of her happiness. So she was “very” happy.
Grade three has been tougher.
Her “best friend” from grade two left, and went full time to the special school this year.
The other “best friend” (a boy) had decided he no longer wanted to play with girls, so he has been pushing her away (quite nastily) for the past 6mths, pushing a girl who clearly does not understand “why” she is being pushed away. She thinks he is playing, albeit rough, but still, just playing. But he’s not. He has got quite nasty, and due to her autism she isn’t picking up the cues, he simply doesn’t want anything to do with her.
So here is this girl, in a school that would be difficult for her to understand the curriculum for 75% of the day, no real “friends”, just girls who say “Hi how are you” as they are walking past, and I have to say, it’s pretty sad to watch.
I went in one day (hidden in the car park), with the schools’ permission of course, and observed her at play times. It was, of course, hard to watch. She floated around, tried to approach some kids, most just dwindled away from her, no one really wanted to play with her.
No one is her “friend” any more, and for the most part she just sits on the seat outside her classs watching others come and go.
Can you imagine watching this from the car park?
It was terrible.
Anyway, I quickly let the school that until they addressed how she got another friend, she wasn’t coming in any more.
We sorted out a “play diary” where she was to write down with the teach who she was going to play with in the break times, and after the break times the teacher was to confirm verbally with the other child that my daughter did play with them.
There is a lot of trust going on with this system, teachers, other kids telling the truth, my daughter never answers my questions about play time, she is going through a stage atm where she just smiles at me when she doesn’t want to answer questions – and I can tell you that is pretty frustrating!
Anyway, she appears happier, I’m certain she still has no “best friends” but I think most of the time she has someone, or a few girls, and that is enough for now.
Our autism pediatrician told us by grade five, in mainstream school, she probably would find it nearly impossible to have a friend in mainstream school. So we are getting prepared for the inevitable.
We’ve already decided, high school, she has to go to special school. There is no way we’d keep this up when she is a teenager, it’s already getting tough.
So the above is the background.
Now here is the tricky part.
Being invited to others – no, not one this year. Last year one. That’s it.
We hold parties for both of our kids, every year, and many are invited.
It’s not a secret, we are not picky, but it appears the other kids may be a little…
Ok, we don’t tell her anyone else has parties, so she isn’t missing what she isn’t missing.
Inviting others to hers – yes, we even got 6 girls to come this year!
But I worked hard for it.
I remember the sinking feeling I had 2yrs ago, we’d invited 6 girls, and many RSVP’d they were coming, 1 didn’t say anything. So we thought surely we’d get 3.
We got 1, and she was late.
My daughter, standing at the door, looking out the gate, “where are they mum?”
It’s not a feeling you want to have.
“oh don’t worry honey, I’m sure they’re just running a bit late, gives us more time to put up more balloons…”
By then I’m starting to panic, I’ll go as the neighbours, I’ll say they called to say they were sick and they would come next week instead, I was just piling up the excuses.
Then luckily, one girl, who lives around the corner, wondered in with her lovely mum, and that was that.
My girl was so happy, they raced off to her bedroom, and started playing straight away.
This year, no risks were taken.
I spoke with the teacher at length about the issue.
We wrote a list of girls to invite, together.
They got invites, with choccies in their invite bag.
Then the day before the party they were sent home with lolly bag “reminders”.
I texted all the parents that RSVP’d, said “hey don’t forget!”
I did everything possible to ensure we get at least two, and we got lucky – we got 6.
(2 were sisters, but that’s ok, they were all adorable girls)
So it seems the stress is off for another year now…
Who knows what next year is going to be like for her, I do worry a bit about it…