I recently posted the following message on my Facebook page. I am a mother of three children, and my oldest is is affected with severe autism. This post is a reflection of the gut wrenching emotions, raw guilt and desperation that I feel every year as I face the challenge of trying to make my son's birthday a meaningful day. The message that I posted is as follows:
"Our sweet Logan turns 12 next month. I have already been feeling sick about losing another year where autism has my son- has his voice! Each year on his birthday I close my bedroom door & bury my face into my pillow and cry. You all know I am a firecracker and not at all a "down" type of person- Logan has stopped getting birthday cards, birthday parties YEARS ago. I guess everyone realizes he doesn't understand anyways. This year I want to stop feeling down-right upset that my son is aging into a young man under a blanket of autism. I want to CELEBRATE him and ENJOY his day on 2/24/14! Logan does not have friends- not even one! So- will you go right now and grab a piece of paper and write Happy Birthday Logan- from your FRIEND------ in Oregon, Alaska, Hawaii... Etc? I want to make a birthday card book for him. Get your kids involved and draw a picture for him. Get your small groups/ friends, students, FB friends involved. Help us celebrate Logan's birthday! Feel free to share this. I will post pics of the completed birthday book on 2/24/14.
311 Lowell St #3210
Andover, MA 01810"
Since I wrote the Facebook post, there has been an overwhelming outpouring of love and support, not only from my Facebook friends, but from many others here in the USA and across the world. Our mailbox has been overflowing on a daily basis with cards and letters from other moms and dads, grandparents, kids, schools, girl scout troops and many others. At this point, I think the book I was going to make is going to be a multi-volume set!
I have heard from many others who have said that they have a child with autism and they too have experienced the same kind of pain around birthdays. Birthdays for us and for other families like ours are supposed to mean balloons, cards, birthday cake with candles... and friends. It's one thing if your child is a little shy and has a hard time making friends, but what do you do about the social isolation that comes from your child being unable to speak and lacking the ability to understand the basic concept of friendship? Birthdays can become just another reminder that things are different for your child, and there can be an eerie sense of quiet on the day that you would have hoped to stand back and watch your child share love and laughter with friends and family.
I am starting this blog to share the things that are happening as a result of my Facebook post and to share a little more about my son Logan. I have been inspired and encouraged as people have briefly shared their own experiences with me over Facebook and in their letters. Likewise, as I continue to share, I hope others are encouraged as well.
To those families that have a sense of what this feels like, and to those others who offer their love and support even when they don't feel like they fully understand, I dedicate this blog.