I swear, I hear at least one of these stories a week. I’m starting to think that some parents (OK, mothers) of kids with autism, or other special needs, are setting this up so they can get a free party and a gift grab for their kid, and some sympathetic TV coverage too. And it’s always the police who show up, and often pay for the parties out of their own pockets. The latest one from my area involved renting an entire paintball facility for the child, his family, and the police and their families.
From what I’ve seen of people on the spectrum, which admittedly isn’t all that much compared to many of you, most of them would really just rather have some cake and punch at home with their families, and maybe a single friend or two from the neighborhood or school (if they have them, of course). And why aren’t the parents inviting other autistic kids? You’d think they’d be thrilled to get an invite.
These are often parties where it seems that half the school gets invited, and let’s face it, even the most socially adept child isn’t going to have THAT many guests, nor could many families afford to buy gifts for that many children over the course of a year.
(Lest anyone here think I don’t know anything about this, I was often that one child who wasn’t invited to this or that event, and I was told that parents tell their kids that they can invite everyone on the list, minus one. :rolleyes: Imagine how I felt when I found out that isn’t generally true.)
Has anyone else observed this? Does anyone else think these are more for the parents than for the child(ren)?
p.s. I’ve heard of this being done for children as young as THREE YEARS OLD. I don’t think a child that young is going to care, and even a neurotypical child would probably get overwhelmed at an all-day party with dozens of guests.
I’ll just note from the sidelines that most therapy for children with autism is weak on meaningful social integration. The only good argument for having schools handle autism programs is that they have a built-in peer-interaction base; unfortunately, most schools make little use of it and leave even kids on the mild end of the spectrum as socially isolated as those with severe forms of retardation and disability.
Age of the child, sensitivity and where they are on the spectrum are HUGE variables. You’re painting with a real broad brush. For my daughter, we’ve never ever tried to do a birthday party outside of our home, but now coming up on 12 years old we could.
We are part of a Chinese families with a child on the spectrum group in Seattle. I have hosted 20+ families for thanksgiving and other events at our home. It’s quite interesting and chaotic to have around 20 different spectrum kids together. We have (barely) enough space for such a gathering.
Most spectrum kids don’t have non-spectrum acquaintances much less friends to invite to a birthday party. And in the cases you’ve seen, it could easily be that the child in question is really into police or firefighters, and those folks were very accommodating.
I’m not saying it’s never happened that a parent of a spectrum child tried to get a free lunch. But I’ve never run into this, and the amount of effort required if the child is pretty deep on the spectrum is far larger than a free party with the neighborhood firemen. Jus’ my 2 cents
Like China Guy said there is often large differences in severity between different autistic children, a spectrum one might say. Some kids are so severe they are almost in a different world and they don’t really interact with anyone other than maybe the parent who is the primary caregiver. Sometimes children that are autistic but more functional have even a harder time in their lives because they genuinely crave play and interaction with other children, they want friends but because of the deficits they have with things like theory of mind and socializing they are ostracized by other children in their class if they are in a general education classroom. They really need this interaction too because they can at least improve their socialization skills and overcome some of those difficulties and who knows maybe even develop a couple of genuine friendships.
Basically, it seems, yes. This story happened in my region (I saw it on a local station) and his mother said she’d invited 36 kids, with three saying yes. This boy also has other disabilities besides autism.
It’s the often-national TV coverage of these stories that really bothers me. The first time it happened, OK, but over and over again? IMNSHO, most people who would experience something like this would want to keep it relatively quiet. Sorry, something’s up here, especially when it’s for a child who isn’t old enough to know what’s going on.
I have relatives on the spectrum, and their parents would never do something like that. There are, however, dishonest people in the world, and no, having an autistic (or other special needs) child does not give anyone a free pass.
Comparing this to rape is apples and rutabagas. :rolleyes:
(For that matter, my relatives who are on the spectrum, including the one who’s in his 30s, wouldn’t want a big party anyway - just the quiet celebration like the type I mentioned earlier.)
My impression from the linked article was that the kid asked for and had his heart set on the paintball party. While it doesn’t specifically say who paid for the actual party it sounds to me like the parents rented the paintball facility only to find that none of the kids they invited wanted to come.
The police that came out bought gifts but I see no mention of them paying for the actual party.
This is largely where I’m coming from. Also, many families have so many other weekend commitments, whether child-related or not, and they aren’t going to have the time or money to accept every invitation (which I did address earlier) and have to be selective.
There are also some kids, autistic or not, that most parents are not going to want their kids around, usually because the child is not safe around that person, or they don’t want a child going to a certain house because of someone else who lives there. I would imagine every parent has had that experience, and as bad as they may feel about declining an invitation, it has to be done sometimes.
I personally thought the kid was a bit young for full-fledged paintball. Do they have some kind of “junior” paintball that’s less hazardous?
ETA: Saying you’re going to attend an event and then standing the kid up is just plain crummy.
The article says that the mother asked for ONE officer to come to the kid’s party, and the police officers were the ones who took off with the idea of having a bunch of people show up.
The school needs to be doing a lot more for that kid. My boyfriend’s grandson is severely autistic (he’s also brilliant) and not social, but the school has done a wonderful job of mainstreaming him. He’s not bullied, the other kids include him in activities and they show up at his birthday parties.