Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Birthday Blues

We were in church the other day and at our church, the kids stay in the sanctuary for the first 15 minutes or so before they go to "Sunday school".  This particular day with no forewarning the preacher announces that it's so-and-so's birthday and that the whole congregation was to sing "Happy Birthday" right then.  Not missing a beat, my child blurts out in the silent space that was upon us, "Oh no!". Imagine the preacher all happy announcing "so-and-so's birthday", and out in the back of the crowd was a tiny, but loud voice responding with "Oh No!"  That was my lovely kid...

Birthdays have always been a struggle for Calder.  Until recently birthdays caused meltdowns, freakouts, shutting down and lots of anxiety.  For as many birthday parties I can remember, I have been juggling a very disregulated kid, (usually off in the corner of the room), with encouraging participation.  For many years he could not get close at all to the group, wasn't interested in any of the food, including the cake.  We always left as soon as it was polite enough to do so, and always missed the games, much to Calder's relief.  And his most abhorred birthday tradition?  The happy birthday song.  He hates it.  He covers up his ears every time.

In  the autism evaluation he had when he was 3, ultimately acquiring an autism diagnosis, they simulated, of all things..... a birthday party.  This represented a social activity, being used to observe his reaction and level of participation.  Since there is no test for autism, it is based solely on observation as well as parent and doctor/therapist report.  Needless to say, Calder failed his Birthday Party.

What is it about birthday parties?  He loves his friends, but sure does hate their birthdays.  He's definitely more mature and regulated now, but still each time the birthday song is imminent, he cringes and covers his ears.