We are getting ready to celebrate Brandon’s fortieth birthday. How did he get this old so fast? Where did all the time go? Brandon has lived in his own apartment for the past sixteen years and even with all of Brandon’s limitations and struggles he never gives up because he loves his independence.
If you have a child who has autism and special needs, you know that parties can often be problematic. Over the past thirty-nine years I am sad to admit that Brandon has not enjoyed many birthday celebrations. The people in my immediate family always thought they knew how Brandon wanted to celebrate his birthdays, but they were always wrong.
Many years ago my sister brought trick candles to put on Brandon’s cake. We were at a restaurant and she secretly handed the candles to the waiter. The waiter lit the cake as we all sang happy birthday to Brandon and he went to blow out the candles but he could not. Everyone started laughing except for Brandon and I. He felt as if people were making fun of him. Brandon was so frustrated and embarrassed. Prior to the cake fiasco, Brandon was having a lovely time, but that quickly ended when he could not blow out the candles.
When I told my sister that Brandon was very upset, she told me that I was overreacting. She said, “I heard Brandon laugh”. Yes, he was laughing with his nervous laugh when he does not know what else to do. He was very upset at the time and long after the party ended.
My sister is invited to Brandon’s birthday party this year and I hope she will allow Brandon to have a nice time without any tricks or jokes. Many people with autism and special needs don’t like jokes because they don’t understand if it is a joke and often interpret it differently. It is best to be direct and leave the jokes and tricks at home.
Since this year is such a milestone birthday, I decided to ask Brandon if he would like to be in charge of his entire birthday party. He can do it the way he wants and has the final say to everything. He was happy to be in charge. He has chosen to include a few guests along with our immediate family. He has selected the exact date and time for the party and is now deciding on what he and his guests will eat. He is still deciding on what type of gifts he would like.
Brandon seems excited yet a bit anxious when having to make so many decisions all at once and on his own. I have been his sounding board when he needs to talk it out. But he makes all the final decisions.
It sure has been a pleasure to focus on something positive and to celebrate Brandon. We all want Brandon to enjoy himself. I know he likes it simple and easy. The party will be at my oldest son’s house. My grandchildren will be making favors and homemade cupcakes just the way Brandon likes them.
As I wrote at the beginning of the post, most of Brandon’s past birthday parties did not turn out the way he wanted. Many of them were a disaster. That is why it is so very important Brandon makes all the decisions this year.
I love seeing Brandon happy and having fun. I am hopeful that his fortieth birthday will turn out just the way he wants it to be. After forty years, let’s hope we have figured it out and that this birthday party will be a fun celebration for all.