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.