Monday, February 11, 2013

Friends and Birthday Parties

A fear that a lot of mothers of children with DS have is "will my child have friends"  or even specifically "will my child be invited to birthday parties".  Birthday parties for those of you without small children have become a big deal in the pre-school and elementary school set.  Mothers are supposed to put on beautiful themed parties for their kids every year or at least you have to believe that if you spend much time on social media.  Around here most parents elect for the "location" party - a party at a local bouncy house, gymnastics or some similar place where the kids get to run wild for an hour or so and all we have to worry about is providing a cake, maybe pizza, and goodie bags.    We did this last year for Lucy and it was wonderfully easy making worth the expense even if it was not as memorable and sweet as Cate's 6th birthday tea party at home.  It can be very disheartening to mom's who have to hear about other kids birthday parties when their child hasn't been invited.  Your child with special needs they might not care or understand the implications but you do or at least think you do - it adds to our fears about our little ones not developing the close friendships that are so important as kids grow.  We all want our child to be liked and accepted so its not surprising we worry if the birthday invites don't come for them since it is a symbol of exactly those things.  So if any of you ever have doubts about inviting a child with special needs to your kid's party - please think about doing it.  Most parents of kids who need extra help will be more than willing to do whatever is needed to make sure it is not extra trouble for their child to participate.  Plus I firmly believe that all young children benefit from inclusion in any sense - I think when kids learn early that everyone is different and that differences are not scary it is easier to teach them to help others and stop bullying.  I would never be upset if another parent approached me to ask if I could help Cate participate in a group activity if needed.  Ok getting off my soapbox now!

I am not explaining this because it is a problem for Cate but instead to try to explain why I am so grateful that Cate is invited to birthday parties.  I'm pretty sure Cate's friends mom's think I'm sightly crazy because I am so emotionally thankful when we are leaving a party.   I have to tell them how grateful we are to be included because I just can't help myself.  I'm positive they don't get it and wonder what that was all about but I just know we are so lucky to have such an accepting community - it is really not like this for every or even most kids who have special needs.  I know the kids at her school love Cate, they gravitate toward her, her schoolmates help her through her day but I also know she doesn't always reciprocate.  She is a very sweet girl - always worried about anyone who is upset or hurt, but she prefers to play by herself and it take multiple attempts before she will accept an invite to play.  At her age many kids give up before she is comfortable enough to involve herself in their play.  So I would guess that even though her classmates like her, they might not think of her when they are inviting their friends to play at their birthday partly.  Some of that might have to do with her speech differences - it can be hard to people who aren't completely listening to Cate to understand what she is saying, especially if it is out of context.  Of course kids her age barely listen to anyone so it would be hard to involve Cate in their play if she wasn't complete willing.  That why it is so important to me that she continues to be invited to the outside activities like birthday parties.  They give her a time to be included with little action on her part required and normally me there to give her a little push in the right direction.

We went to a fun party recently of a girl in Cate's Daisy Troop.  It was at one of those "wine and painting" places - substituting juice and cookies for wine of course - where a teacher walks you though a painting step by step.  I was really worried this activity would not be a good one for Cate,  both because of her fine motor skills delay and her attention span deficiencies.  But she had done pretty well with a painting pottery party a few months earlier so I decided to give it a try.  I was impressed on all respects.  There wasn't a ton of interaction between the kids during the painting and afterward Cate found a mom or two to wrap around her finger instead chatting with her peers but as far as the actual painting went - she did great.  The other mom's were moved into a viewing room but I did stay to help Cate stay on task and following instructions.  I tried very hard to stop my perfection tendencies and let her do her own work - and for the most part she did it all herself with only a small amount of help when she made a mistake.  I helped the most on fixing the tree & placing the circles.  She really did the owl almost completely by herself.  I probably can show this easier than explain so here is Cate's painting experience.

She was so proud we had to hang in up in her room right away then Facetime with Grandma & Grandpa to show them too!  Once again Cate shows me to never underestimate her!


  1. She really did a good job! It's a great painting. I do have worries about the whole birthday party thing and my son is a pre-schooler. I'm definitely worried for the future in elementary school where kids might be more selective about who gets invited. I just hope that Owen is able to make some friends and get some invites. Great post!

  2. She might have a future as an artist! Great job Cate!!

  3. I love her owl painting! She did a great job on it!