The Short of It
When one mom includes a thoughtful note inside an invitation to her son's birthday party, she unknowingly touches another mother in the deepest way.
Tricia Klein is used to declining invitations to birthday parties her 7-year-old son Timothy receives. At age 2, he was diagnosed with non-verbal autism, and doesn't do well in overstimulating situations.
"While it allowed us to access services, the diagnosis was pure devastation," the Canadian mom told ABC News. "I went through a long period of grieving. ... This was not the son I expected to have or the life I expected us to live. Of course, you love your children no matter what; I'm not saying that has ever, or will ever, change regardless of what comes our way. At the time I felt robbed, robbed of the toddler years, the milestones of typical childhood and future years to come."
Klein says Timothy has grown into a happy boy. But, "he struggles with social interaction, but longs to be a part of groups and activities and have friends like every other kid his age."
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"When he gets anxious, he focuses on doors—repeatedly opens and closes them ... for hours, if you would let him. It's tough because he really does crave social interaction and being included. He also has many food aversions and difficulty with sensory input. I would hate for Timothy to have these difficulties and take the spotlight from the birthday child," Klein said.
She further elaborates on her blog, The Book of Timothy:
"We parents of the 'specials' know only too well the hurts our kids feel when they are left out of the social gatherings relative to childhood. Organized sports, play dates, sleep overs and yes- the dreaded birthday parties. I can say whole-heartedly that my son has not attended a single one. We have received countless invitations in the few years Timothy has attended school; of kids who mercilessly invite the entire class - and for that I'm grateful (don't get me wrong). Really cool sounding parties too. I wonder if the parents know what would happen if I brought Timothy? The interruptions...the meltdowns...how I would hate to take the spotlight from the birthday child. So we politely decline. Every. Single. One...Until this one arrived."
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The handwritten note inside an invitation to Timothy's classmate Carter's birthday party read:
"Carter sat beside Timothy at school and he always talks about him. I really hope he can come. We are renting a bounce castle that we can attach a small bounce slide at the bottom. We will also have water balloons and water guns. Maybe Timothy can come earlier in the day if it would too much with the whole class. Let me know so we can make it work."
The words that meant the most to Klein were "we can make it work." She admits, "It was an ugly cry for me that day. Yes, I was shocked that someone would take not only the time to write the note, but to be considerate enough to include him with all of his difficulties. It was a wonderful moment."
Meanwhile, Carter's mom, Ainsley Peikos, says she didn't think much of writing the note.
"Carter had always talked about him, so I didn't think twice when he wanted him at the party. The only question was, 'How could we make it work so that Timothy could come and have a great time just like anyone else?' He came early. He went right into the bounce castle with Carter and they had a great time," she says.
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Now that Klein's blog about the note has gotten so much attention, she says she hopes it will spread this message: "I want only one thing for our kids—for all kids really, and that is inclusion. All they want is to feel included and accepted for who and what they are—that different is okay ... it's just different."
Thank you to Tricia for sharing this story and to Ainsley for your kindness. You have truly made me think about the issue of inclusion, and I will remember this experience in the future when I plan parties for my kids.