To the Parent Hosting Your Child’s Party, From a Special Needs Mom

This parenting thing is a lot of work, isn’t it? I hear you. Doing the laundry, preparing the meals, trying to keep track of school commitments, making sure homework is done, keeping up at your job, fixing what breaks – it’s really too much. To think that on top of this you’ve committed to hosting a birthday party is truly miraculous. The selfless act of taking on more just to give your child a special day – that’s remarkable.

And I get this, too – your child is growing up really, really fast. You’re aware the years are ticking by, and it feels like the window to create special memories is closing. You’ve been given a precious gift, and you want to slow down for an afternoon to let him be the focus of a special day. Let him be the recipient of presents. Let him blow out the candles. You are completely in love with this human being and the thought of celebrating him makes you happy.

So with some hesitation, I ask if you might invite my child with special needs to the party. I imagine the first thing that may come to mind is that you don’t know a thing about Down syndrome, or autism, or G-tubes or wheelchairs. You’re completely stretched already – how can you possibly accommodate that? And why should you have to make any accommodations at his birthday party? Wouldn’t this be disruptive to your other guests?

Well, here’s what I also know – you have hopes and dreams for your child. In no time at all, he will be out on his own, navigating the world. He’s going to get a job, have coworkers, live in a city apartment or suburban house, with new neighbors. He may take public transportation or carpool. And he is going to come across my child, also an adult, and many people like him. And your son will know what to do. He will remember you showed him that people are more the same than different, and he will remember birthday parties where you taught him to be inclusive. He will be successful and well-liked, and he will have opportunities to lead others, because he’s set an example of respecting everyone.

So this year, I ask you to consider giving your child this birthday gift – a gift that prepares him for life. Show him what inclusion and respect look like. Show him how to interact with people of all abilities. Show him how to be a leader among his peers. And I will help you. Ask me if there’s anything you should know before my child arrives at the party. And I will tell you. Because I want your child to be a leader in this world, too.

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