Last year, we experienced our first autistic birthday (or so we thought!). This was just six weeks after our son’s diagnosis and 6 weeks before our daughters.No two children with autism are the same (I can attest to that!). But looking back, I wish I had come across someone sharing their story. It has been moments like these that make I feel God is pulling my heart to continue to share. With experience comes knowledge. Even if that knowledge is to bring a coffee and candy bar for myself next time! Hope you enjoy this flash back to our first autistic birthday (with little man, that is).
A look at our first autistic birthday, It didn’t go as planned!
Fall is always busy, and this time of year starts the pure insanity that is our families’ birthdays! All of my families birthdays (not including mine) start at the end of September and end at mid January. Even crazier, our middle daughter and son’s birthday are the 28th & 29th of September. Yup, back to back birthdays! This year marked the first birthday of my sons in which he knew what was going on. His second birthday. Most children’s second birthday are full of wrapping paper flying every wear, the pure joy of opening those fancy wrapper boxes to find toys in each one, and even many having a blast with the big box Elmo came in. An autistic birthday doesn’t always go that way.
Birthday Parties are the Norm…
I have experienced several birthdays through out the years. With three girls, my goodness you should see the mayhem their birthday’s ensued. Friends parties and other family members parties were just as exciting. Not all birthdays are like that though. On my son’s first birthday and the Christmas that followed, I quickly learned it would be different. Even before a diagnoses, I noticed my son having no interest in presents other than helping deliver them to siblings.
Trains, Trains, & More Trains!
This year, we were fully prepared at home. Well kinds prepared. We bought him a Thomas the train bed and a train table for his favorite Thomas trains. I wrapped a train, a stack of Thomas books, and a teddy bear he picked out. The goal was to keep “surprises” to a minimum while letting him get used to wrapped presents. We spaced out his presents through out the day, so to not overwhelm him.
The first present was his Thomas train bed and once we got his attention, he loved it! Second thing we did was dinner. We had dinner at about 7:30 pm. Yup, that late! You see, the girls came home from school all excited about his birthday. Where it was sweet, it completely overwhelmed him. This is when we had our one and only nap in his Thomas bed. He had a complete meltdown on his birthday. His meltdown happened right before 6 pm, and didn’t end until around 6:45 pm. So while he slept a bit, I fixed dinner and we ate without him.
Planning it all out is key!
After dinner and him waking up, we went ahead and did cake. He liked that I put his Thomas train on the cake, but didn’t want the cake. So we moved on to the three presents that were wrapped. I wound up unwrapping them for him, and all he cared about was his new train “Percy”. From there, Daddy worked on building his train tracks while little man lined up his trains and kept stealing the tracks. This was his birthday. Not so bad.
With his sister’s birthday being the day before, we have a busy week. Actual birthdays are immediate family only. Then we have one big party for family and friends for the both of them together. The now 10 year old is pretty understanding, so she doesn’t mind sharing that day. This year, we had their party at a local pumpkin patch. Little man’s other obsession (other than Thomas) is pumpkins. So I figured this way he could enjoy the party as well. As the gifts piled up for the kids, I quickly realized I wasn’t prepared.
But not all plans work…
Most everyone there knew of his recent diagnosis. My mom done awesome when it came to gifts. She picked out one set of Thomas blocks for him to open. She also gave him my brother’s old rocking horse. These were types of presents that he would enjoy but not overwhelm. My mother in law loves our kids like crazy, and man does she buy presents! I didn’t consider how many presents this would leave him to “open.” Once my daughter was done opening her presents, I rounded up my son to open his. He never opened any, but he did find one that had toy animals in it. He didn’t want to open anything. So I just opened them while he played beside me.
That’s it. No big exciting present. No joy in the wrapping paper or unwrapping them. Very little interest in the presents themselves. He didn’t care about the boxes, or even his cake. For most, this would have been an awful birthday, but little man it was fine. He was happy, he ran around the pumpkin patch pointing out all the pumpkins. He played with the rocks in the sand box and he ran around not noticing the rain at all. When he wanted to do anything, he took the hands of family members to walk them over to what he wanted to see or do.
Diagnosed, Now What?
When your child gets diagnosed autistic, or any other developmental delay, it comes with a lot of emotions. All the emotions they are unable to feel and all the extra you now feel. That diagnosis doesn’t mean an end. He doesn’t mean sadness and screams all the time (there will be times, but not always). It means learning a new happy. It’s about making your family work for your family, and no one else. No child is the same, diagnosis or not.
For us, autism is the best thing to happen to us. It has taught me a new kind of love. Our son is autistic, so there for my son would not be who he is without autism. I have learned to slow down, and enjoy every minute. Even how I deal with my other children has changed. With his diagnosis, I’ve noticed how I don’t look people in the eyes either. So I work to look him in the eyes, and anyone else. It’s awkward and makes me feel uneasy, but it’s one small way I understand who he is. We learn daily, and celebrate the littlest things. Learning to say “bye bye” and wave at 2 years old becomes an amazing moment the I treasure.
Everyday, I am reminded to be peaceful and find joy in the little things. So remember, having a child with a diagnosis is different and that is amazing! God doesn’t give us more than we can handle. When we’ve reached out limit, He is there to pick us up and keep us going! See you on the next adventure!