Fathers For Autism

I am a road-worn father of an amazing autistic daughter and NT son. I started this blog to provide information, a sounding board and a voice for fathers of autistic children.

More to see on my Facebook page.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Birthday Parties...

How many children's Birthday parties have you skipped?

It's not that you're anti-social, it's just that you know what to expect:

Loud music

Louder kids

Isolation of your child

"Unacceptable" food

The looks from the other parents.

Potential 'exit' meltdowns. Hell, potential 'all the time' meltdowns.

If you've been through this, then you realize that the socialization is usually not worth the stress, for you or your child. I mean, why put anyone through it if it's just going to be a nightmare?

I get it. I totally understand. And yet...

We were invited to a B-Day party this weekend and, although we are new to the neighborhood, my daughter and I decided to go.

The scene: Bouncy House, loud music, screaming kids, flat pizza, chocolate cupcakes. My daughter hates flat pizza and chocolate. This should be interesting.

We walked in and was greeted by the Dad, a 3rd grade teacher with kind eyes. My daughter, totally distracted by the sounds in the bouncy room, didn't notice him at first, but focused hard to put the present in the bin, take off her shoes, and bolt out into the fray. I thanked the Dad and hustled off after her.

She walked into the center of the bouncy room and immediately covered her ears, the sounds a little overwhelming. She squeaked loudly and ran to the closest bouncer, a 'rock climber with a slide'. She took a couple of steps up the wall and slid back down.

"Daddy. I need a help."

"You can do it, Honey. I believe in you!"

She scrunched up her nose at me and tried again, me cheering her on. The Mom saw me and walked over to help cheer. My daughter looked back, halfway up, and smiled her beatific smile. Then she continued on with more confidence, making it all the way to the top. Her 'payoff' slide was on her stomach and followed by an immediate re-climb of the wall.

That's my girl...

I spoke with the Mom for a bit. Her son, the B-Day boy, was also a redhead and very excited to have another ginger in his class. There was no indication of difference, challenges, or autism.


Later, as my daughter was making her 5th trip up the wall, a couple of girls her age ran up to her and asked if she wanted to join them in the Hurricane Booth, a closed, windy room with 78MPH winds. She looked at them, right in the eyes, and said "YEAH!" and ran off with them.

As the hurricane began, I could see my daughter start to get a little anxious. Without missing a beat, one of the girls started rubbing my daughter's back, concern in her eyes. My daughter calmed down and allowed herself to enjoy the wind, her friend acting as her grounding point.


The party continued for a while and then moved into the pizza room. The final challenge.

My daughter sat down at the table, the pizza was already on the plate, and immediately said "Yuck! I hate this pizza!" Hehe...so direct.

I had planned for this as we ate right before we left, but weren't allowed outside food (big fine for this...ugh). So I talked to her for a bit about waiting for her friends to finish. She drank her water and sat calmly, listening to the surrounding conversations.


Before we left, several parents had requested that we have playdates as my daughter is loved in her class. They knew she had autism, they just didn't see it as a deterrent, just another facet of her. I left with a list of phone numbers and a spring in my step. My daughter left with a smile.

Later that night, I showed my wife the video of the girl rubbing my daughter's back in the Hurricane Room. We cried for a while and held each other.

"I'm so happy for her..." my wife said through tears. "I'm just so happy for her."

Girl Scouts...

Girl Scouts,

I wanted to send some love and express my heartfelt gratitude to the Girl Scouts of my hometown. 

On Saturday, I went to the grocery store with my daughter. As we approached the front door, I heard her laugh and followed her smiling eyes to a group of girls wearing cookie costumes. She grabbed my hand and pulled me towards the group, drawn in by their enthusiasm and positive energy. The girls immediately smiled and cheered as we neared and invited us to purchase some cookies. Having just bought 5 boxes from my neighbor’s daughter, we didn't have a need for more, but my daughter's and the girl’s excitement was infectious so we went over to the table anyway.

One of the parents asked if my daughter was interested in being a Girl Scout, while the girls surrounded my daughter remarking on her red hair.

“Do you want to be a Girl Scout, honey?” I asked her.

“Mmhmm” she replied, clapping happily at the idea.

I walked around the table to exchange information, keeping my eyes on my daughter as we were still close to the street.

“We just moved to the area and are really looking for ways for her to find new friends, grow her self-confidence, and become involved in the community. The fact that she’s so excited by the girls tells me everything I need to know. She’s incredibly insightful when it comes to people and loves being around those that are genuine, honest, and fun. She also has autism.” I said.

Over the years, I have found myself involuntarily watching people’s expressions and body language when I tell them about her. I suppose the Papa Bear in me wants to protect her from the world. I looked in this parent’s eyes and saw only acceptance, understanding and care. The complete lack of judgment was so uplifting and rare.

She looked at my daughter, who was now recruiting cookie lovers with the girls, and said “She’ll be great. Let me take down your information and get you started.”

I wrote down my contact info and looked up at my beautiful daughter. A teary laugh burst out of my chest. The girls had put her in one of the cookie outfits. The joy in her eyes, the acceptance from those around her, the love she felt was overwhelming.

As we were driving home, I called my wife to tell her the story. There was a smile on my face and tears in my eyes, while my incredible little redhead sang ‘Girl-Scout-Coo-Kies’ in the back seat. My wife cheered her on and I made her a promise that I would be the best, and most embarrassing, Scout Dad possible.

Thank you again for this moment of joy. You have provided a measure of hope and grace that we didn't expect but gratefully accept.