Every time a birthday comes around, I find myself shocked that it has arrived. Can Eddie really be seven? Have I really been writing for Family Connect for over a year now? I remember writing about Eddie’s last birthday and the good and bad things about coordinating a birthday for a child with a visual impairment. This year, I found the same difficulties and new successes.
The biggest obstacle is deciding what type of birthday party, if any, to hold for Eddie. First, Eddie loves the song “Happy Birthday,” and especially loves the day his name is added to it. Aside from that, he doesn’t understand the birthday concept. He doesn’t wait all year for the day of presents, or cake, or the grand birthday party. Instead of a party outside of school, we decided to incorporate his birthday celebration with his kindergarten class.
There is always the typical snack time; when parents bring cupcakes or something similar. We went along with that theme, but also added treat bags for the kids. We included some candy, a minor toy, and a card with the braille alphabet. Eddie gave all the students a brailled Valentines’ card in February and they loved it. So, we decided another braille gift would go over well. Even though we didn’t have a “party,” the kids in his class knew that Eddie has birthdays, too, and they were all included.
Eddie does not seek out peer interaction, and often literally runs from it. We know that he doesn’t seem to care who knows it is his birthday, and has no concept of friendship. However, the other kids know all about that stuff, and we want them to see Eddie as a peer in whatever capacity he can participate. I think it is important to remind his classmates that he isn’t all that different from them.
Aside from our bribery with treat bags, Eddie has some exceptional teachers that work hard to include him as well. Today, I came home to a great surprise. Those teachers, along with his class, created a unique birthday present for Eddie. What travelled home in his backpack today was a book made just for him by every kid in his class titled “Happy Birthday, Eddie.” Each child had a page to color, and then they were given puff paint to outline every image. The best part was that they had artistic freedom. It was phenomenal. Eddie has never received a better gift and I have rarely been this touched.
If I ever thought he wasn’t being included by peers, the next gift proved me so wrong. Along with the book was a picture drawn by an older student. Under the picture it said, “I like to play to you.” On the drawing there was a swing set and two stick figures. One of them was holding a cane.