Imagine your child looking forward to their birthday party for weeks.
Imagine their excitement as you blow up the balloons and decorate the hall you have hired.
Imagine their face as they see the bouncy castle miraculously spring to life.
Now imagine their little face as they wait for their friends to arrive and realise minute by minute that no-one is coming.
Nobody! Not one single person!
This awful scenario became a reality this week for a six year old autistic boy who was devastated when no-one turned up to his party.
Hearing this brought out so many emotions in me. I felt devastated for this boy and his family as no parent should have to see their child being hurt in such a cruel way.
Not one single one of this boys class mates turned up to his birthday party! Please just take a minute to imagine how this feels to a little boy.
Maybe you have a child who has no 'special needs'.
Maybe you have a child who has a great group of close knit friends.
Maybe you have a child who is 'popular' and you secretly feel proud of this.
Well, I am pleased for you, I really am. But this isn't the case for everyone. Lots of children don't fit the 'perfect' stereotypical child.
There will be children in your childs school who have autism.
There will be children in your childs school who have ADHD.
There will be children in your childs school who have tourettes.
My eight year old son has tourettes and elements of autism and he is one of the most amazing kids you will find. He may not want to join in with 'make believe' games in the playground and he may freeze and not be able to get his words out in a big group. But you take the time to get to know him and he will show you who he really is - a fun, caring compassionate child who your son or daughter would be lucky to have as a friend.
I don't know why not one single person took their child to this party but I do know that they should feel ashamed of themselves and learn from the amazing response this family got from the decent people living around them.
Excluding children from parties is just as hurtful. Imagine not receiving one single birthday party invite all year as you hear your classmates all chatting about the next cool party at the weekend. Yes, as children get older they will be more selective in who they invite but as parents is it not our job to guide them in how to behave in life? Maybe if you were the one family to invite the 'different' child to your birthday party, everyone would realise that there was more to them than meets the eye. It might not mean much to you but it could mean the world to them.
Growing up is hard enough for children. Imagine how much harder it is if you have to spend every day coping with autism of another disorder. So I am urging you as parents to look beyond what you may initially see in a child. Look beyond what your child is telling you about them. Lead your child by example and teach them that not all of us are the same and they should accept peoples different ways and embrace them for their individuality.
And on that note let me leave you with this thought - a big misconception with autistic children is that they don't like being in social situations. They often would love to socialise with friends they just find it harder. Maybe your child could grow up to be the one to make this easier for them. Let your child be that one person who makes a difference.