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Why Autism Only Birthday Parties Are All Right With Me

Why Autism Only Birthday Parties Are All Right With Me

(originally written & published on April 22, 2012)


Yesterday we went to another autism birthday party. We have a nice group of autism kids (and nice moms & dads) that we’ve picked up over the years some from preschool, some from music therapy, some from swim therapy, etc and we all invite each other to all our ASD kids birthday parties.


One might be in their home, another in a play gym, yesterday’s at the YWCA pool, etc, etc.


What’s making me write this post is how comfortable we all are with each other. The kids are all different functioning levels, (of course my kid is the lowest). The moms hang out socially sometimes doing mommy lunches and mommy nights out, the dads not so much.


But when we get together for one of these birthday parties it’s just so GREAT to be around people who are going what you’re going through, who get it, who are keeping an eye out for the wandering kid, and not getting grossed out or annoyed when the 11 year old double dips and triple dips into the salsa, where it’s ok for the same song to be played over & over & over throughout the party and it’s ok to relight the bd candles 4-5 times cuz your kid likes to / is proud of blowing out the candles.


In the regular world we might never have been friends with these moms and dads. Maybe they come from a different background, or have different political views, or just aren’t the types of people we’d normally gravitate to… But over the years maybe our kids had a good time together at a few music therapy sessions, or the moms spent a lot of time hanging out in waiting rooms together waiting for their kids to get ours of speech therapy or OT…and now our kids are stuck together FOREVER…if we can help it….


And we will lose some moms, dads, & kids along the way probably. We have already. Some moved away. Some became higher functioning and their bd parties went to places where we knew my son wouldn’t have a good time like an arts & crafts place or a build a beat workshop. And so maybe we declined the invite 1-2 years in a row and then stopped getting invited after that. And you know what? That is fine. I have absolutely no problem with that.


The same thing happened years back when the king stopped getting invited to his typical friends birthday parties. Before his diagnosis mom went to a Mommy and me class and made a lot of friends. And for a few years we were invited to all their kids parties. And for a few years when they are young and the parties still have a toddler theme (gymboree, etc) our ASD son could enjoy the party and not stick out like a sore thumb. But as the typical kids got older their parties got harder for my son to handle and he wouldn’t have a good time and therefore mom or dad had to be “on him” every second and therefore we wouldn’t have a good time either. So we’d decline a few invites and then we’d stop getting invited. And that is fine.


And the king’s parties stayed the same. For the first few years they were a mix of autism kid friends & typical kid friends. But as my guy got older, his bd parties stayed the same, Gymboree or pool, pizza and cake. And I never wanted my friends with typical kids to force their kids to come to his parties.


So now we are squarely in the place where all we are inviting to the king’s bd party are autism kids (ok let’s say special needs kids) and all the bd party invites we receive are from special needs kids. And that is great.


I’ll admit it, years back i used to DREAD going to kids bd parties. And now I actually kinda enjoy it. Ok me being on antidepressants might have something to do with that (read about that HERE:-) but a bigger reason is that they are now pretty much all special needs bd parties and I can relax and not be that worried about my kids behaviors. I can actually relax a little bit…how refreshing!


And I know this won’t last forever either. Some others will move away and some others kids might make some progress and want their kids bd parties to be more age appropriate and might want to include more typical peers. While I totally expect his 16th birthday party to still be a 2 hour pool and pizza party at the Y. So I know this group of friends won’t last forever and that’s ok too. It will probably evolve and we’ll probably pick up some new probably more low functioning friends along the way. 🙂


The reason I decided to write this post is something that happened at the end of yesterday’s bd party. One of the ASD kids threw up, right there in the middle of the party room right after the cake was served. It was probably caused by a combo of too much chlorine pool water mixed with too much salsa mixed with too much pizza & cake, etc, etc.


Anyway he barfed. And most moms went to help, most dads got the hell out of there. 🙂 Of course that kinda cleared the party out. But we’re in the parking lot just as the kid who got sick is now happily getting in the car with his mom, dad and brother. And all of us are cracking jokes about the whole incident. My wife was commenting on the weird color of the barf. The other mom was marveling that it didn’t smell. I was saying that was more info than I wanted to know (“TMI man, tmi…”) and we’re all laughing.


And that my friends, I think can only happen at an autism only birthday party…



Written by

Frank Campagna

I’m a 48 year old neurotypical dad with a 14 year old son with severe, non-verbal autism & epilepsy. I created this blog to rant about autism & epilepsy while celebrating my son who I affectionately call “the king” :-).

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21 People Replies to “Why Autism Only Birthday Parties Are All Right With Me”

  1. thank you for writing about this. I just came from a NT party and I could feel the tension and the looks every time my kid will scream or said he didn't want to do something. It just broke my heart, how grownups are the one that make the looks and stupid comments and not the kids.

  2. Vicky

    This gives me a better idea of what to expect and to do for my toddler next birthday. I have a really big family that loves to share and spend time together. When we get birthday parties we only have to invite our infinity family and the party gets on. Then again I didn't wanna understand why my son preferred to spent some time alone in the living room while the whole party was going on outside. now that I know the reason is autism I understand I should make a simple party for his benefit. Although I wouldn't private him from other kids, even though he prefers the older cousins to those of his own age they still have fun together. As long as they have a pool, trampoline or a bouncy house he wont care who is around he will have great time and that is my purpose.
    We are new to the whole autistic environment so I got a lot to learn. but I suggest to those that got trouble in regular school to get your kid the hell out of that negative vibe and get him in a school prepare for children with special needs as we did, he doesn't feel any pressure for nobody because everyone understand what is happening when he is not comfortable. not only that they are really helping him to succeed he came from school smiling and singing even when is a 1:30 hour ride in the small bus, and he is getting more social to other people and more understanding of his whereabouts. just make the right decision for your child and you will see how everything works out or better.

  3. Coleen

    Loved the post!

  4. Anonymous

    I hope that someday we find a group like that. Just today I had asked a child's parent in my son's NT dance class if I could request my son with his one on one aid be in the same class because he seemed to socialize with her and typically just ignores other kids. I never expected to hear no for an answer. This also was the first year we were basically told by the play group we have been in for 4 years since my son was a year old that maybe we should find a more suitable place for him. I suppose I just keep running into not very understanding people. My son speaks but exhibits very classic low functioning symptoms like non stop flapping, still in diapers at 5, licking anything shinny, and sometimes even people. Today he even tried to take his shirt off at the YMCA and I had to quickly stop him. This is our latest battle, wearing clothes in public.

  5. Ryan's Mom

    I too have a low functioning autistic child and find comfort in our ASD parties but I have to admit even some of them can be difficult so we have to turn down the invite. Though all the parents are supportive and understanding some places are just not going to work for Ryan no matter who is there. Sometimes it still hurts too much for me to see really how far off even some of his ASD peers he is and then other times his ability to try amazes me. I hope for the day where I can see that he has made a large stride and there is no ASD party we have to decline and maybe even a typical party too.
    As for bullying the school those parents who reject you and your child because you fight for your child's ;ife are not worth a second thought. I truly hope they never have to experience what it is to watch your child struggle for the simplest things others take for granted like a voice. If one day they had to literally fight for their child's life and felt a day in your shoes, I would bet they would then be begging for your friendship and advice. I am lucky I am in a school where all the typical children and their families embrace Ryan. They don't all understand and they may even fear, but they will ask questions and try ttry to get an idea, are always compassionate and never ever shun him or my family. In fact my teenage son has a group of riends who protect Ryan and look out for him and I think have had their eyes opened wider because of him. I hope youeventually find a similar sense of community at your school.

  6. This was an awesome blog post. I am a para educator; working with special needs every day. I find it refreshing when people are honest, like you are, and just roll with the punches. I am sure when the other children are not going to Kyle's birthday parties any longer, you will be one proud friend. It is like walking through a classroom hallway and seeing a child that was once in life skills move into integrated education classrooms. It really makes one proud that there are techniques that work and help a child become more independent, kudos to you!!!

  7. Anonymous

    My son never get invites to bd parties.Once I invited his whole class he was in a gen.ed class @ the time,not one classmate came I was so hurt for him.That nxt Monday I ask a couple of parents why didn't they come was told that their child did not want to come one father told me that because I bully the school don't mean I can bully students and families.The older he gets the less people want to be around him family,school,friends. The only good thing is that he's so low he could care less.

    1. jenny mcintyre

      If you bully the school why would you ever think anyone at the school would want to come to your home for any reason?
      We have parents like that in our school district and they are avoided by nearly evryone.

  8. JJ

    Thanks for sharing this story. It's great to have a sense of humor about accidents. Hopefully those parents who were grossed out will have the same sense of humor when they reminisce a few days later.

  9. Anonymous

    I really loved this artice and your truthfulness. I feel the same way when we are at any function for 'special needs' children (my son is autistic and more in the middle than mild). Everyone is so accepting and as you pointed out, also watchful and helpful, it's just a much more relaxing enviroment. Anyway, I loved this article!! Thanks for sharing!

  10. oh my goodness, it's like you wrote this about our son. Its so true and really hit home! we have been starting to decline invites to NT kids bday parties, its too much for him, and for us, and for all the reasons u said, lol. My son (going to be 6 in may)is getting ready for a bday party ( a mix of asd kids and NT) and I told my hubby I wondered how much longer it would be a mix, as we are now starting to meet more parents with asd kiddos, and as u said, he has an easier time being around them. Gonna have my hubby read this too 🙂

  11. Christa

    I have 4 children and the mix of nt and autistic seems to work just in our house.. We go to some bd parties for friends kids and my oldest goes alone to his friends but since elem school no one comes to theirs.. We just celebrate as a family now. We pick a place that everyone can enjoy or even just stay home with video games and movies. It's fine for us, the kids don't mind, they don't feel like they are missing anything because their 5 year old brother just can't go skating or to the movies or wherever the party's are held. I would love for my son to have some friends with his level but as for now that has not happened..

  12. A certain little Pwdin has his birthday at the weekend. Though we don't know many autism families we have lots of friends with kids who are disabled so there's a similar kind of atmosphere. Think I'll decide whether or not I'm looking forward to it as the date gets closer – I'm a bit of a neat freak and not the biggest fan of kiddie chaos

  13. Anonymous

    Curently agonizing over an invite to NT party. To go or not to go? The only NT parties we have gone to are family. Could be fine or could be disasterous!

    1. Could be fine – so give it a try – if it is too much excuse yourself and go do something else

  14. kate duerr

    You hit the nail square on the head again! I'm so glad my husband found your blog. We both love it and it has helped us, particularly him, deal with some of the more challenging aspects of the ASD diagnosis. You have such a gift for normalizing our unique experiences, which only those who have autistc or special needs kids can truly understand. Thanks so much for keeping us amused and helping us learn to be "okay" with all of the differences between our world and the "normal" world!

  15. I also dread b-day parties – and we only go to ones where I know DS can handle where the outing is (or the activities). Its less stressful for us, DS & the party planners….and as important as it is for DS to have chances at social interactions, the anxiety & pressure of attending a party that he can't handle, isn't worth it because he'd be too stressed to even attempt social interactions.

    Thanks for this post!

  16. Honey Halley

    It's sounds like a good time was had by all. My grandson's 5th bd party was at an indoor place that is sectioned off with different styles of those big blow up jumping/sliding/climbing things. All the kids and the parents had a good time.

  17. I am really happy for your family to have found a groove and a niche. It makes life so much more enjoyable and less of a daily fight. Unfortunately, where we are at in such a small community, we don't have many special needs kids. What we do have though, thank God, are a group of amazing NT/GT kids that love Garrett and include him in everything and are super protective of him. The amount of relief is amazing. And being able to joke about all that…hey…ya gotta find humor where you can and laugh…helps you live longer.

  18. Anonymous

    sounds like bliss! we are yet to develop a group of friends without NT kids! so EVERY outing is still full of stress!!!