Salaam Alaikum wa Rahmatullah.
So Ramadan is almost at an end and I’m planning my Eid party. We decided last year that in order to make the Muslim Holy Days / holidays special, we’d have a big get-together with a bounce house, snacks, crafts, and lots of friends. Our first Eid party was small but fun with several families and the neighborhood kids. The bounce house was a major success. I just made my reservation for a large Dora / Diego bounce house for our party set for September 1. I created an event on Facebook and started inviting friends. I was a bit floored when I realized that at least three of my friends who are coming have autistic children.
Now, I don’t have a huge circle of real-life friends. I am a work-at-home, cook-at-home, recreate-at-home mom for whom a trip to Wal-Mart is a major event (and no, I don’t usually take the kids with me!). So the people I know in real life are fairly small in number. For me to pick three random friends and have them all have children on the autism spectrum is just a real wake up call. Autism. It’s for real. It’s epidemic. It affects all of us, whether our own kids have it or not. I have an autistic nephew. My next-door neighbor’s son is autistic. If my nephew were to come and my neighbor and her son as well, the autistic kids might well outnumber the non-spectrum kids. It certainly gives me pause. It makes me think that I better talk with my friends and see if there’s anything I need to do, anything I can provide that their son or daughter might need. A quiet place? A cuddly toy? A favorite snack or flavor of juice?
I’m so honored to have great friends, and I’m blessed if they feel comfortable bringing their kids, ALL their kids, to my home. A lot of times families of kids with autism don’t get to have fun. They either anticipate problems and don’t go out, or they spend all their time on high alert to make sure their child doesn’t act out, or stray, or melt down. Some have an apology always on their lips. “I’m sorry, he’s a bit tired, and we forgot to bring his favorite stuffed toy.” All parents seem to have their head on a swivel, looking after their kids to make sure nothing is amiss and little Johnny isn’t squishing bugs in a puddle, but autistic parents have to be even more alert. Autistic kids can be especially creative because they often don’t have the filter that slows them down and makes them think before they act. They live in the moment and if it seems like a good idea to play Superman and jump off the back balcony, well, there you go. So I just want to tell my friends with children on the autism spectrum this:
You are welcome. Your kids are welcome. Your specially marked bag of toys and snacks that no one else gets to touch are welcome. If your son needs a quiet room in my house to retreat to for a while, you are welcome. If your daughter doesn’t want to come out of the bounce house for four hours, you are welcome. If your kid has a meltdown in the middle of the driveway because someone else took the last Berry Berry Koolaid, you are welcome. If you need me to keep everyone busy with crafts, or have my kids show them where the frogs live behind the house so you can go pray without being interrupted, you are welcome. You are my friend and that includes your spouse if you have one (hubby is great at entertaining the guys with stories) and your kids. My yard will survive spilled drinks and gravel tossed on the sidewalk. My living room will survive cat litter spilled on stairs and chocolatey handprints on the sofa. My bathroom will survive water on the floor and toilet paper draped over the mirror. Seriously, my kids have done all that before, so we can handle your kids for a few hours and inshaAllah, God willing, you can let down your guard just a little bit and maybe even sit down and eat some cookies.
So come to my party if you are in the area, and know that I invited you because I want you there, you and your loved ones, to share the joy of Eid after a long month of fasting in Ramadan, and perhaps a bit of cooler weather, and not having to cook because the kids will fill up on junk food just this once, and I don’t remember there being a check box on the application for being a friend that says “parents with special needs kids need not apply”.