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When a Mom Noticed How My Grandson Was Being Treated at a Birthday Party

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My grandson is on the autism spectrum.

He has challenges, but we are trying — he is trying — to find our way through.

He couldn’t stand the sound of water running and a toilet flushing since birth. He couldn’t stand the sound of a vacuum, hair dryer, any fans or too many voices. He couldn’t stand on the grass without freezing or enjoy the feeling of sand on his feet or hands, but we had to try to help him.

He had been using his “heavenphones” (headphones) at home when we vacuumed, ran a bath, flushed the toilet, etc. So, I got permission to have him bring them to school. It was awesome.

He could could interact with the other kids, he could listen to the teacher and this, with his breathing exercises (three deep breaths in though the mouth and out through the nose), appeared to make a huge difference. Wearing his “heavenphones” was entirely up to him. He would take them off and put them on as he felt he needed them. Keep in mind at this point he was barely 4 years old.

We noticed he still had the hardest time just after snack. He is allergic to peanuts and had “safety snacks” at school. If the snack had any chance of having peanuts, he would eat the snack from home instead. I had noticed at home he had trouble after having sugar. All kids get a little amped, right? So, we decided to drastically reduce the amount of sugar in his diet. It was like night and day. His teacher had mentioned her son had trouble with red dyes, so we took those out as well and he did great! So, from that time on, he brought his snacks to school.

But it made him “different.” I have many pictures of him at preschool where everyone else had juice boxes, cookies or cake and he had Goldfish and water. No one invited the kid who couldn’t eat cake to a their birthday party.

Between his second year of preschool and Kindergarten, he was invited to a birthday party for a little boy whose mom was a teacher at the school and knew him. It was at this party that something happened that blew us away.

My daughter had contacted the mom of the little boy and accepted the invitation. She told her she would send him with bottled water and sugar-free cookies so he would share in the snack time, and she brought enough for him to share. At this point, he was only wearing his “heavenphones” for maybe 25 percent of his time in school and many days, he didn’t wear them at all.

The party was at a place called “My Gym.” My daughter brought the snacks and his “heavenphones” with them, and off he went to play. About 10 minutes later, he came and got his “heavenphones” and a drink of water and returned to playing. My daughter could see she was getting some looks from the other parents. There had been soda provided for the kids but he was drinking water. And wearing headphones.

He played for about another 15 minutes, came back and got another drink of water and took off his “heavenphones.” It was at this point one of the moms decided to confront my daughter.

It started with one mom and turned into a group discussion. My daughter explained he had problems with noises and wasn’t able to “deal” with sugar. She explained that he disliked the feeling of being out of control and the way sugar affected him. He, at 4 years old, would ask you when you gave him something how many grams of sugar it contained. He had decided that 3 grams was his limit. He decided, not us.

It was decided by the “mom mob” that my daughter was being mean by not allowing him to share in the birthday cake, candy and pop. It was decided that she was making him odd, making him stand out, embarrassing him. They decided that she should let him eat sugar on special occasions such as this.

When it was time for cake and presents, the birthday boy’s mom skipped the cake for him, and he had his water and cookies. He even shared with the other kids. One of the “mom mob” walked over and gave him a can of pop. Before my daughter could say a word, my grandson gave it back to her and said, “No thank you.”

She tried to give it to him again and again, but he refused. As everyone was leaving the party, gift bags were given out at the door. One of the moms gave him the gift bag and he looked inside and gave it back to her. He told her, “No thank you, that is too much sugar for me,” and proceeded to leave.

The mom stood in the door and insisted he take it. My daughter was about to come unglued when he quietly took the bag, handed it to her and said “Here mommy, you know what to do with this.” And they left.

The mother of the birthday boy was totally unaware of all of this, but, another mom, who also knew my grandson, was aware. Several months later, he was invited to that little boy’s birthday party, where water was supplied for him, the gift bags had no candy and the cake was sent home in dixie cups. She told my daughter she was sorry she hadn’t supported her at the previous birthday party, but my daughter and grandson had both done such a good job, she had just let it go. She knew he would be invited to her son’s birthday and it wouldn’t be repeated. None of the children whose parents had been rude to them were invited.

My grandson is in kindergarten now. He is 6 years old. I found his “heavenphones” the other day under a bunch of toys. He doesn’t use them anymore. He loves the feeling of fans on his face, he rolls in the grass. He loves the beach and digging in the sand. He still does his breathing, and his kindergarten teacher has a “secret signal” to remind him when he needs to. We, and it is a group effort, have goals we are working on.

He brings home a colored slip of paper with a bear or bunny that says, “Great Day Today!” and we hang it on the wall for everyone to see. I love to see his face when he gets off the bus and knows he has one to hang. If he doesn’t, we discuss why it happened and what he can do to have a better day tomorrow.

Boy holding "Great job today!" sign in a classroom

He still doesn’t eat much sugar but he now accepts the cupcake or cookie and brings it home to split with his little sister (half the sugar, Nana!). If he starts to feel edgy or jittery, he goes and gets some string cheese or something with protein to counteract it.

He may always have challenges, but that’s not the end of the world.

He is a wonderful, energetic, beautiful little boy who has found Legos. He can sit for hours and create new things. He can follow step by step to make things that are thousands of pieces. He reads and does math on a second grade level and frankly, there is nothing wrong with him. He is my grandson, and I wouldn’t want him to be anyone else. He just came home from school and guess what? Yup, he got a purple bunny today!

Nice job.

Editor’s note: This post has been updated since publication to meet our editorial guidelines.

Originally published: March 5, 2015
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