Sunday, August 17, 2014

Party Time

One of the items on Little A's sensory integration checklist is to monitor he behaves at children's parties.

When he was 20 months old, we attended the first birthday party of one of my goddaughters. At the time, we had not yet been to a developmental pediatrician and had no formal ASD diagnosis.

The party was held at a restaurant, and, like most typical Filipino first birthday celebrations, it was crowded and very loud.

Little A was in his stroller, where he screamed and cried and wanted out of the room from the very moment we walked in. He spent about half an hour outside in the heat by the car, only to melt down again when he brought him back into the restaurant.

We ended up leaving that party early, but not before saying goodbye to the birthday family. As I wheeled Little A over to speak to the hosts, the birthday girl's grandmother pointedly remarked in a voice loud enough for me to hear, "That child needs to be assessed by a doctor."

I was insulted at the time, at her matter-of-fact delivery. Perhaps that was my denial stage. At any rate, this grandmother turned out to be right on the mark, as we discovered a few months later.

Fast forward six years and many birthday parties later. Some we attended without Little A, making the excuse that he was napping, or telling the truth that the surroundings and noise would overwhelm him. Some parties he attended, carefully selected ones in an outdoor venue or those without a party host screaming into a microphone. Most times he cried. Sometimes he adjusted after a while.

At his own birthdays he participated minimally, usually just at cake-blowing time. Almost every time, he would cover his ears for the duration of the party.

This year, though, he began leafing through our photo albums and pulling out photos of his birthday parties. He would select books about birthday parties, and watch videos over and over again of children's parties with singing and clapping.

He attended his cousin's party, cried during the noisy bit, but enjoyed after most of the guests had departed. At his party, he cried only when they sang the birthday song.

Party season is coming up as several of our goddaughters have birthdays one after the other, keeping our weekends full for an entire month. So far, he has attended two already without any crying. He doesn't join in the games and dancing, but he has been able to sit with the rest of the kids despite noise and tolerate the events for more than 10 minutes before retreating to a quiet corner. We consider this a huge improvement.

Two down, three to go. I hope that at the end of next month I am able to mark down on the sensory integration checklist that Little A has "mastered" the skill of attending a typical children's party.

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