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Why That Birthday Party Invite for My Child With a Disability Is so Important

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Recently, I invited a little boy to kiddo’s upcoming birthday party. I don’t think I have ever seen a parent so happy that her child had received an invite — for him. Not as a tag along, not as a family invite, just for him. It made me wonder where it all goes wrong for our children with additional needs.

Kiddo has had birthday parties since he was 1. I’m just one of those parents. I love designing the theme, the games, the food. His first birthday was “Hungry Caterpillar” themed and I went all out. Completely. That was also the first and last birthday party we ever had at our house… the clean up took days!

Kiddo was surrounded by children his age in our village. We all went to the same toddler group and the children all knew who kiddo was. It didn’t matter that he didn’t talk back to them; children that young just see a child. Not the challenges they face every day. But there was also one other huge difference. The parents were in charge of party invites because the children were too young to remember who all their friends were. But as soon as they all started school, it was a very different story.

“Who do you want at your birthday party?” parents say. And the children come up with a list. Do you think they will remember the nonverbal child? Probably not. Do you think they will consider the child who screams in school, but adores birthday parties? No. How about the child who has to have their nappies changed still? No way. And it is at this age that children with additional needs get forgotten about.

I’ve known stories of entire classes of children being invited, but the child with a disability is left out because parents assumed that he wouldn’t want to come. He was heart broken. Stories of mums turning up to parent socials and hearing all about other children’s parties that theirs wasn’t invited to. And I can tell you now — it cuts like a knife. Because our children know when they aren’t invited, whether you realize it or not.

That one question you ask your child is an important one. They should tell you who they would like to invite. But instead of only going with who they ask for, why not ask them about the child in their class who doesn’t fit in, who can’t talk or play. Because they are still a child. And they still have parents. And they know. If we teach our children to include from an early age, who knows how kind they will grow up to be!

For kiddos upcoming birthday, he hasn’t been able to tell me a single person he wants there. We have also invited children who haven’t seen him for months. But I’ve seen their parents. And boy have they come through for me. I also know that my friends talk to their children about kiddo, and some of them even include him on their party list. This warms my heart so so much. It all starts with one person: the parent. Take responsibility. Don’t exclude the child with a disability. They’re beautiful, they’re fun and they’re just waiting for that invite to show you who they really are.

Getty image by Wavebreakmedia

Originally published: December 12, 2018
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