My son Tom will soon be 6 and I have closely followed the stories about young boys in America whose mothers have created Facebook pages so that people all over the world can wish their child a 'Happy Birthday'. One little boy is Colin and he will be celebrating his 11th Birthday in March. You can see his Facebook page here, although at the moment he knows nothing about it as his mother plans to reveal it to him on his birthday. The mother states on her page:
'I am Colin's mom, I created this page for my amazing, wonderful, challenging son who is about to turn 11 on March 9th. Because of Colin's disabilities, social skills are not easy for him, and he often acts out in school, and the other kids don't like him. So when I asked him if he wanted a party for his birthday, he said there wasn't a point because he has no friends. He eats lunch alone in the office everyday because no one will let him sit with them, and rather than force someone to be unhappy with his presence, he sits alone in the office. So I thought, if I could create a page where people could send him positive thoughts and encouraging words, that would be better than any birthday party. Please join me in making my very original son feel special on his day.'
When reading this my heart went out to this mother. I cannot imagine my Tom sitting alone to eat lunch. Luckily he is an ASD specific school and his class all eat lunch together. However I was reminded about the short time that Tom was at mainstream school and he was very much alone there and perceived to be different, so this I could really empathise with.
The sheer number of birthday messages on his Facebook page and the 2.006,928 likes also brought a lump to my throat as these children are often forgotten,
I know Tom is not yet 6 but he has only ever been invited to one birthday party and we have never held one for him. This may change as he gets older and I always feel guilty about this although it is irrational. We do celebrate in other ways though, last year we went to his favourite farm. I am not sure where we will go this year, maybe the farm again.
However would I create a Facebook page for him? The answer would have to be no. I would be uncomfortable in receiving messages and cards from strangers. The question I would also ask myself is, 'ok these people are supporting my son but will they do the same in their own community?' Will they support other children out there who are having difficulties socially due to their autism? I really hope that the answer is yes.
I don't want to take away from what these people have posted, (I have sent a message too) but it is so much easier to post a comment than to actually 'do something'
I also empathise with Colin's mum, you want so much for your child to be accepted and to take part in activities and social gatherings but for our children this is often not possible and this is our secret sadness.
So by her creating this page Colin is being accepted and celebrated and I applaud that. I hope that he has a wonderful birthday.