Tag Archives: Grammer

No One Came to This Autistic Boy’s Birthday Party… You Won’t Believe What Happened Next

Forgive me for the Buzzfeed-style headline. But the events of Saturday are just such a roller coaster ride that I feel like if there’s ever a time when I’m going to get all Upworthy on y’all, it’s now.

If you’re a friend on Facebook, you’ve probably been following the saga of Graham’s 5th birthday party. This was the first year I decided to give him a real party. A party with invitations handed out and RSVP’s requested instead of just calls to our friends down the street.  I learned from last year that summer birthdays are tough. I handed out invitations early this year, made sure every kid got one, about 15 in all. I gave my email to RSVP and waited.

And waited.

Last week (a month after handing them out) we got our first RSVP: it was a no. Also no’s from all our local friends who would love dearly to come, but are just gone.

Summer birthdays are harder than I thought. As someone who had a winter birthday, and who moved so often that birthday parties weren’t that common anyway, I didn’t get it until this year. It is HARD. And it’s harder when I don’t have anyone’s contact information. Boston’s elementary schools aren’t just divvied up by neighborhood. The kids in his class come from all around, we don’t have a tight-knit community, we don’t call each other for playdates. And he’s been in an Early Childhood class where several of the kids are special needs and that complicates it even more. 

I started to worry. 

The party was scheduled for a trade-off custody day so that both parents could attend without messing with schedules. I chose a spray park near our house and chose 10 a.m. for a start time. The park is usually pretty quiet before noon and I planned to arrive right when they opened at 9:30 when it’s a ghost town to get us a table for the cake.

Saturday morning, the big day, I got to the park early with Kathy, the maker of Graham’s Hot Wheels cake. As soon as we pulled into the parking lot I felt my stomach turn. The little spray park had already been invaded. The doors were open even though it wasn’t open yet. There was no one there now, but someone had been there. They’d come, set up all the tables under the little bit of shade, added several chairs, put up a stereo system, set out a grill, and hung balloons and Happy Birthday signs. Whoever they were, they’d taken everything.

I wanted to cry. But I didn’t. I waited. We asked someone in the park nearby and they reported that people had been there and then left. It was quarter to 10, the kids showed up with their dad. Still no sign of the other party. So I called it. The area wasn’t one you could reserve, it was not cool to take all the tables at the park, so we took one back and moved it to an open space. 

People started showing up… to the spray park, not to the party. No sign of the other party either. Just kids from the swimming lessons next door who’d just finished and were now over for some fun. 

A girl who goes to camp with Graham was there. She hadn’t been invited or anything, but it was a happy coincidence. 

There are times when you’re glad your kid doesn’t pick up on stuff. And I was so glad that Graham hadn’t fixated on the invitations to his party. I was glad he didn’t remember that he’d given me that list of 15 names. I was glad that he was happy to run around knowing he was having a birthday party and there was a cake and he was having fun.

Time passed. Kids came and went. It stayed pretty quiet at the park. Still no sign of the other party. Still no sign of any of Graham’s friends. 

And then something wonderful happened.

It was Graham’s best friend Dennis. The one he talks about often, the one he says he misses, the one he calls “my best friend Dennis.” He’s an IEP kid like Graham. His mom came, too, and said she’d tried to email but by the time she got the invitation from Dennis she couldn’t make out the address. She’d made some attempts but they hadn’t made it to me. I didn’t care. I was so happy.

I cried. I cried behind my big sunglasses, grateful that they hid how crazy and foolish I looked. 

Dennis brought presents. Graham opened them and was thrilled. A new Spiderman bracelet was put on. Cake was eaten. They ran through the spray. They played with Graham’s new Hot Wheels race track. As far as Graham was concerned, it was the best party. And I had to agree.

And those people who claimed the tables for their party? There was no sign of them until we were leaving. So nice of them to claim all that space and not use it for hours. Sigh.

We said goodbye to Dennis, had lunch, drove around and then drove around much longer than necessary because both kids were asleep and why stop?

party No One Came to This Autistic Boys Birthday Party... You Wont Believe What Happened Next

I’d been updating online, of course. Letting everyone know Graham was happy even though no one showed up. And then letting them know someone had come! Hooray! 

But when I finally got to Twitter, well, that was when the story really started.

The internet was sad to see Graham alone at his birthday party. The internet decided to help. By this time I assured the internet that Graham did have a friend come, that this was all unnecessary. The internet did not care. The internet wanted to know what would make Graham happy. 

So this little boy who is so easy to make happy will be pretty thrilled when the internet sends him to see Thomas the Tank Engine at Edaville next month. Internet, I have no words. So I’ll just take lots of pictures. And until then here are a couple from the spray park. Tessa, who wouldn’t touch the water a month ago, is now sticking in hands and feet and is ridiculously cute. And Graham, I look at pictures and see this long, lean kid whose face sometimes looks so grown up and I don’t even know what to think.

 

  No One Came to This Autistic Boys Birthday Party... You Wont Believe What Happened Next

 No One Came to This Autistic Boys Birthday Party... You Wont Believe What Happened Next

 No One Came to This Autistic Boys Birthday Party... You Wont Believe What Happened Next

 No One Came to This Autistic Boys Birthday Party... You Wont Believe What Happened Next

 No One Came to This Autistic Boys Birthday Party... You Wont Believe What Happened Next

 No One Came to This Autistic Boys Birthday Party... You Wont Believe What Happened Next

Graham’s Fenway Birthday

Graham turned 5 this week and my present to him was taking him to his first Red Sox game. Though technically I took him to Futures at Fenway which is not actually a Red Sox game but a farm team game. But they wore white and red so Graham was all good. I won’t be able to get away with this kind of stuff much longer. 

He was so. happy. A couple little whines here and there, but overall it was one of the longest periods I’ve seen him where he stayed in a happy place. He is, of course, still himself so he was often serious and asked approximately one million questions. 

I was planning to head out before the game was over, assuming he wouldn’t last, but he did. And he set his heart on staying for the movie after the show. I assured him it was a grown-up movie and that he may not like it. He wanted to stay anyway. Graham has never watched a live-action movie from start to finish. Even a short live-action tv show must involve trains or cars for him to get into it. But he watched ALL of Field of Dreams, all of it. He still asked approximately one million questions, but he watched it and was happy and declared it his favorite movie ever.

I am glad we had that day, just the two of us, and that I finally have my camera out again (I lost my charger and it took me ages to get a new one) because it was a joy to capture it. I am not the kind of person who gets schmaltzy about perfect days, but this was about as close as they come. 

Also: who is this tall and spindly boy? He is going to shoot up before I know it. And I’m sorry, but this kid is just so beautiful I can hardly stand it.

 Grahams Fenway Birthday

 
 Grahams Fenway Birthday

 Grahams Fenway Birthday

 Grahams Fenway Birthday

 Grahams Fenway Birthday

 Grahams Fenway Birthday

 Grahams Fenway Birthday

 Grahams Fenway Birthday

This Is Our Autism

Thanks to my friend Jessica at Four Plus an Angel for asking me to co-host the This Is Our Autism linkup with her. Autism is different for everyone, it’s different at every age, and we want to give people a better glimpse of how different these experiences can be. You can link up your post at the bottom. 

Autism is all we know in our house. Maybe someday I will know what normal children of a certain age do. Maybe not.

 This is our autism This Is Our Autism

Our autism right now is a four-year-old getting ready to turn five, getting ready to start kindergarten. He is adorable and sweet, and it’s not just me that thinks so. It’s his teacher and therapists in their IEP reports, it’s the people who sat in front of us on the subway and kept turning around to comment on him. It’s just who he is. It is also, to some extent, his autism. He is always a babe in the woods, always naive, he does not know how to hide what he thinks and feels. 

He is vulnerable, but also aloof. If the bossy neighborhood girl his age slights him, he does not notice. He is still oblivious to most social signals. Though this is sometimes a strength, as it’s led to him engaging children he doesn’t know. He wants someone to play with him, so he just goes up and asks them, it is a simple formula for him. If other kids ignore him he usually doesn’t notice. 

We have left behind that mysterious boy he was as a baby and toddler, the one who existed in a different orbit, whose meltdowns were random and raging. Now he is in so many ways a regular kid, but in so many ways not like them at all.

He lacks a lot of the things people associate with autism now. He does have his obsessions, but they’re relatively minor. He loves trains and cars, he likes to have one with him, but he does fine without them. He doesn’t have his collection organized or names memorized. He just likes them to an unusual degree. 

If you know what you’re looking for, though, you see it. Right away. I say, “Graham, look at me,” and while his eyes sweep past me he will not look. His eyes dart all around but won’t land on my face. If he is calm and I say it again, then I get his eyes, they lock with mine for a few lovely seconds, he may smile, but he is happier when his eyes wander off again. 

And there is that quirkiness, that way of talking that doesn’t have the ease and attempts of cool that even little kids adopt to try and be big kids. 

He wears every feeling. His heart is not just on his sleeve, it covers him from head to toe. 

His emotions are ramped up. Anger and frustration are things he has no idea how to process. Happiness manifests physically. Anxiety is his most common emotion, though, the one I worry about. If his sister cries, he gets upset and is crying, too, within seconds. Not because he is sad, but because it rattles him. 

He says, “I love you, Mom,” every day. Unprompted. He wants cuddles. He wants to sleep in my bed. Every night. He is sensitive, talkative, inquisitive.

IMG 20140608 111007 e1405339873151 This Is Our Autism

Our autism is also a two-year-old. She is, in strange ways, both more and less autistic than her brother. She is still new to the therapy he has done for years. She is just barely starting to figure out this whole language thing. She is hitting her stride, hitting that uphill climb I remember well from her brother. Bursts of progress and language. 

She likes the grown-ups she knows, she happily babbles incoherently when one comes and finds something of interest to show them. She isn’t as interested in kids. Except her friends at daycare. Those are her people. That’s pretty much how she sees the world: her people. It’s not that there’s her people and everybody else. There’s just her people. Other people do not exist. 

She wants. She wants so many things. That is life as a two-year-old. But her language skills are those of a girl half her age. When she wants something, even something she knows how to say, she often won’t use that word. 

She is unpredictable, sometimes moody, and can go from happy to livid in moments. Getting to livid usually happens the same way. She wants something, she can’t or won’t say what it is, any gestures and language she uses is unclear, attempts to figure out her request only get her more angry. In those situations, even when you find the thing she wanted, she will often refuse it anyway. Only to accept it again a few minutes later. 

She lives in her own world until she wants something. Though the walls of this barrier are starting to come down. When she changes, it is not gradually but all at once. One day she was suddenly, startlingly clingy. And that is how she’s been ever since. She wants hugs, she wants cuddles, she wants to be carried. This from the baby who spent over a year avoiding cuddles, rocking, all those joys you normally get from your little one. 

She is quiet and hangs back. She is an observer. Though once she’s alone she is happy to be the center of attention. 

She has no obsessions, never has. Her interests change constantly. She likes whatever her brother is playing with. She likes girly things, especially if they’re pink or if jewelry is involved. She wants badly to ride her brother’s bike. 

She is learning to dance. She is starting to try and sing along. 

Her autism is tucked in nooks and crannies rather than visible on the surface. Her eye contact is definitely decreased, but is getting better every day. Most people, and this includes people who know her well, think her diagnosis is silly or absurd or unjustified. Even I spent a long time not being sure but knowing something was off. 

I worry that people look at our autism and think it is not really autism. My kids are both mild and will hopefully need services at school for only a few years and then grow beyond them. I know we have a different experience than those who deal with aggression or obsession or an inability to speak. But I worry that kids like mine are the reason people think that autism diagnoses are handed out like candy. That they’re just late talkers or just kind of quirky. 

Our autism is no longer a thing that brings me to my knees constantly. It is growing and changing every day. 

 

Graham Looks Into the Abyss

It is hard with little kids (and autistic kids) to know what is just a passing phase and what is a character trait that may continue for years to come. 

 Graham Looks Into the AbyssLately Graham has been showing some signs of fascination with the melodramatic and morbid. I first noticed it when we saw Frozen back at Thanksgiving. “Favorites” are still new to him so I asked him what his favorite part was. He said, excited, “When the girl turns into ice!!”

He’s since seen it several more times and will not budge from his opinion.

What’s his favorite part of Wall-E? “When he breaks down.”

And what about Planes? “My first favorite is the song. ‘Nothing can stop me, nothing can stop me…’ But my second favorite is when he crashes into the ocean.”

I had my own slight obsession with melodrama and death as a child. I’ve only grown out of it as an adult, and I think I’ve lost it only because I’ve stopped looking beyond a day or two into the future and have been in a very live-in-the-now mindset for the last 3 years or so. But as a kid, when I played with my toys there was an awful lot of tragedy and death in my pretend play. When I became an obsessive reader, I preferred books with heavy doses of weeping. 

But it’s completely possible Graham is just going through a phase where he’s just kind of figuring out the possibilities of death and destruction. 

Or he’s just seen too much Thomas, since that show always revolves around someone getting into trouble in some way.

He asks me about death a lot. Not in general terms, but specific ones. “What happens if you do that? Do you die?” (To be fair, he also asks about jail a lot. “What if you do that? Do you get in trouble? Do you go to jail?”

Today he reported that at school they read a book about a lady who died. It took me a while to figure out that they read a book of The Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly. “She swallowed lots of animals,” Graham said. “And on the last page she died. People die if they eat too many animals.”

He’s also started to show a little bit of childish fear, which is honestly a welcome change from his anxiety. The fear has been manifested lately through a question he calls out from his bed, usually when I’m climbing into mine.

Like, “Are there monsters in our world?”

And, “Do crabs go inside houses?”

The big-ness and scary-ness of the world is something I can’t protect him from and I’m glad we’re easing into it a little so I have time to get my bearings. It’s still something that’s small and new for him, not something that legitimately scares him, just something he’s curious about.

Although the other day he asked me, “Mom, when do the days end? Do they go forever?”

I didn’t know what to say to that. But then it turned out he was just wondering when night was coming now that daylight savings kept it light longer. 

Phew. One step at a time, kid.

Forgetting and Remembering

Sometimes I forget. I forget Graham is autistic, I forget that he’s different. It’s so easy sometimes. He just exudes kid-ness so strongly and so normally that there’s no reason I should think about it.

And then there’s the possibility that he may no longer qualify for a diagnosis. It’s been brought up by his doctor. And while it’s left me feeling unsure of how we fit into the world, it’s certainly been happy news.

There are other times where I can’t forget. It’s been like that this past week.

First, there was the evaluation in the mail that Graham took a few months ago as part of a research study. It’s actually Tessa who’s enrolled, but Graham went in for one session. They did cognitive analysis (average! Yay for average!) and they did an autism diagnostic. It shouldn’t have surprised me that he qualified for a diagnosis. And yet it did. 

Second, there was the email I sent to Graham’s teacher. This is his second year of pre-K in an integrated classroom, but next year he enters the big bad school system of official Kindergarten enrollment. So we will either get a placement through the regular system or we will get one through an IEP. And I wasn’t sure which it would be. He’s done so well, he’s made such progress, I’ve been so pleased. I honestly felt we had a good shot of doing a regular placement and then setting up IEP supports to make sure he adjusts. But his teacher is the authority so I asked her so we could plan while the schools are open for us to take a look. She said he’s best off staying in an integrated classroom, which means no regular placement, which means he’ll move to a different school next year. (His doesn’t offer integrated Kindergarten classes.) Again, it shouldn’t have surprised me. But it did.

And finally, there was the trip I took Graham on to the Christmas Train in the Cape, which we’ll be reviewing later this week. It was just the two of us, I could focus completely on him. And what I saw was a whole lot of autism. Most of the time he is in the same routine, the same places, the same people. I changed it a little and saw what I hadn’t seen in a long time. Fear, shyness, blocking out the world. I went back to all the lessons I’d spent years learning. I didn’t push him, didn’t encourage him to break out and have fun. I just let him be, let him take his time, let him enjoy in his own way. It’s been a while since I’ve been there. Another surprise that shouldn’t have been a surprise.

 Forgetting and Remembering

I don’t have my heart set on him losing his diagnosis. It’s not my goal for him. But it was on the table and it changed the way I was thinking about the future. And now I’m changing again, pulling back a little. I’m returning to the roll-with-the-punches approach to parenting where I stay cautiously optimistic, challenge him carefully and with plenty of support, and make sure he always has his safe space at home.

On the bright side, another thing happened this week. We’ve been having dance parties at home (the kids and I are partial to the Ke$ha station on Pandora. Shut up.) and Graham has been asking for them more and more. So I thought, maybe this would be something he’d enjoy. We did some quick research, sent a few emails, and were invited to go to a Peewee Hip Hop class on Saturday morning. 

He wanted to go, he was excited, but he also expressed some fear. He didn’t want to go into the classroom without me. I tried to prepare him, but I didn’t know much about how the setup would work. I think we were both a little anxious and a little excited. Sure enough, there was a parent waiting area. No windows into the studio. But there was a video camera inside that showed his class on a tv to the waiting parents. 

 Forgetting and Remembering

I didn’t play the A-card when I brought him in. He’s 4, the class is for 4 to 6 year olds, I was going to play it by ear, as usual. See how they acted, see how they treated him, let him be a part of his age group. I’m sure he wasn’t the first 4-year-old to have a little anxiety about his first class. The staff showed him the camera and the TV, the teacher brought him inside, and it was a done deal. He was involved, he didn’t ask for me, he just enjoyed himself. 

And during those 30 minutes I didn’t forget. But I sure did feel proud. 

Two Little Owls

I think it’s time for a little old-fashioned photo dumping.

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The elusive smiling Tesser Messer. So hard to get smiling pictures of this baby. It’s not that she doesn’t smile but they’re not as common as they once were and she doesn’t hold them for long. Luckily at the Halloween party we went to there was an indoor slide. Girl loves slides.

Girl has also been a good sport about her hair which continues to not part like a normal girl’s hair. She’s letting me put barrettes in it more often to keep it out of her eyes. But man I wish it would just part so it’s not always hanging down in her face.

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There was also much jumping. To me in these pictures Graham seems to look like he suddenly aged 5 years while I was looking the other way. 

The party was at Early Intervention. Graham’s old speech therapist was there. It was the first time she’d seen him in over a year. He is a totally different kid than the one she remembered. It was nice to be reminded of his progress. Graham didn’t remember her at all, I feel a little bad that these people who were so instrumental for us and for him are no longer a part of him that he knows.

My two little owls received many compliments. I am not much of a crafter, and on the day of Halloween I had to spend a few hours stitching on their feathers after they’d started to fall off. (Curse you fabric glue!) So I was grateful for the kind words. Graham enjoyed his costume, which was the most important thing. Tessa tolerated hers just fine, another win. Perhaps we can find a way to make our costumes out of hoodies every year?

Graham requested his costume be a rainbow owl. Which is just so totally him. I did my best to make his vision come alive.

 
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I haven’t been able to take many pictures lately and this was a perfect opportunity. I didn’t get much in the way of practice and working on framing and crafting an ideal image. But I got my two littles at ease and just as they are and that is just what I wanted.