I’ve written in the past – most notably, in reaction to a comment I made elsewhere that seemed to evoke a lot of conflict – about how it irks me when the Monster (and other children with special needs) are excluded from events with other children their own age, including classmates’ birthday parties, seemingly just on the basis of their disabilities.
It’s not just the Monster, though – it’s the parents too.
For starters, let me come clean – the Monster’s been invited to two birthday parties that I’m aware of this year – his cousin’s and the child of a friend of ours. I know of one more that we’re attending – another child from said friends… and probably his cousins’ parties later this summer/fall. And while that bothers me, I’ve much less interaction with the parents of his classmates, so I have no idea if we’re missing out on being invited to things or no. (On a positive, it looks like we’re having quite the crowd for the Monster’s birthday party in a few weeks.)
On the other hand, though, the wife and I are rarely invited out to anything, and I don’t think it’s just because of my being a bad person (as has been commented on, most notably in reference to the aforementioned statement about my attitudes on how my child should be included).
This was something that I was talking about on Twitter yesterday, with another parent of a child with Autism who had brought up that she feels excluded from things because folks seem to assume that she would have trouble finding a sitter, so they don’t invite her at all. We get some of that too on our end, where folks know that we don’t have a regular sitter for the kids, and I do feel sometimes that it’s part of the reason we’re not necessarily thought of when there’s a group invite.
I’ll echo what was said by Sherri, and I think this goes for most parents in this situation, whether single or couples – we’d rather decline an invitation for that reason than not be invited at all. More to the point, as I responded – we’re getting to a mode where one of us might accept and the other stay home to watch the kids, and switch off to get “normal people time” with folks our own age.
But there’s a flip side to this – we also get the opposite side, where folks don’t understand that we’re not as flexible when an invitation is tendered.
Playing golf with my coworkers is a great example of this. A coworker of mine is retiring next week, and there was a suggestion to go play golf as a farewell event. Originally, we planned on playing hooky from work for the day to go squeeze in eighteen holes, but the organizer then posited that the weekend might be better. Which is all well and good… except that we’re double-booked for going to a picnic each day – Saturday for the Baltimore Mommies’ annual picnic, and Sunday for the Autism Society’s local chapter. Both of these events are at regional parks, and neither facility is fenced… meaning that the wife would have to tend to both kids by herself. It’s not like my coworkers don’t know about the Monster’s Autism, and yet I still got incredulous looks when I said I’d have to decline on that basis. (The game ended up moving back to the week because the guest of honor’s not available either on the weekend… but that’s not the point.)
It’s hard enough being the parent of a child with Autism without feeling like there’s little understanding of how it feels and little want to include us. It’s not even being the last kid picked on the playground – it’s being the last one available to be picked, and suddenly realizing that there’s an odd number of kids…