It’s always his birthday


Martin has a hard time recognizing that other people have birthdays. Whenever we tell him about a celebration for someone else’s big day, he insists that it is actually his birthday. In fact, when we told him that Christmas was a celebration of Jesus’ birthday, Martin said that it wasn’t Jesus’ birthday at all. Instead, it was his.

Yesterday was my birthday. I wanted, somehow, to help Martin in his process of recognizing other people and cooperating with them. I thought I’d try a project that Martin would ostensibly enjoy: making chocolate cake. My husband gave me the idea of radically simplifying the operation and making a list of what Martin should do. I measured everything into little bowls. Then I made a list that went something like this: Butter, oil, sugar, MIX. Eggs, vanilla, MIX, and so on.

When I first invited Martin to make the cake with me, he insisted that he wanted to make a cake similar to one he makes on a computer game. I told him that our cake had many of the same ingredients and Martin seemed willing to try. He helped with every item on the list, including the sprinkling of chocolate chips on top at the end. He also licked the batter off the spatula, which is a perfectly normal thing that Martin usually refuses to try. When the timer went off, Martin jumped up and down at the prospect of eating the finished cake.
We didn’t make it through the whole day without Martin’s insistence that it was actually his birthday. But we did move forward in our effort to help Martin learn to accommodate other people’s wants and needs. I didn’t have to make a wish when I blew out the candle on my cake. The cake was a sign that I’d already gotten it.
Jen Graber
I blog because having a special needs child can be lonely. People don't want to pry. They focus on the positives. In this way, people are nice. But life with Martin includes very difficult moments. And I'm a little tired of keeping them within the family.
Jen Graber

Jen Graber

I blog because having a special needs child can be lonely. People don't want to pry. They focus on the positives. In this way, people are nice. But life with Martin includes very difficult moments. And I'm a little tired of keeping them within the family.

0 thoughts on “It’s always his birthday

  • September 3, 2010 at 12:29 pm
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    Perhaps an approach you could take in getting him to realize that some things are done for others is helping him make dinner, and other meals, regularly with you. Have him go with you around to everyone in your household hand have him ask how they’re feeling. A great thing about food is that it is the first line of medicine for everyone you feed. In many ways, a mother is the best doctor- when you’re sick, she’ll make chicken soup for you, knowing that the nutrients in it are good for a cold, or give you hot water with lemon and honey for a cough and sore throat. Getting him to ask people how they’re feeling and deciding what sort of food would be best for that person to eat that day might get him to realize that the essence of cooking is to cook for others, and that might shift the focus off of himself.

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  • September 3, 2010 at 3:05 am
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    It’s great that he’s on his way. It all starts with one step. Glad that he enjoyed the process while learning that it will not always be his birthday. 

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  • September 3, 2010 at 2:15 am
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    It sounds like he had a lot of fun helping to make the cake.  Maybe you can make it a more regular thing and let him help out with meals.

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  • September 2, 2010 at 2:36 pm
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    I can understand your frustrations, my nephew finally started to grasp the concept of other people having birthdays about a month ago. He doesn’t quite get what that means completely, but its a step in the right direction. He is 8 years old.

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  • September 2, 2010 at 1:43 pm
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    What a great birthday present! Martin is lucky to have caring and understanding parents like you guys. Thanks for sharing, your post brought tears to my eyes.

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  • September 2, 2010 at 10:10 am
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    i really admire your patience. you developed a really creative way to help your son recognize others. it’s evident that you’re an excellent parent.

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