Learn Your Special Education Laws, Special Education Rights, and Share IEP Goal Ideas

Sep 28
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by Jess

I have lost track of the number of times I’ve seen a mother of a child with autism break into tears when discussing the subject of birthday parties. Either her child is not being invited to birthday parties or the mother throws a birthday party and very few children attend. 

Here’s a strategy that will most certainly benefit a child with autism: from pre-school until elementary school graduation, invite the entire class to exciting parties for every occasion and turn the home of the child with autism into “the fun” party place. Make sure that the activities are reinforcing and highly structured, the junk food is plentiful and the party is short (two hours maximum). Use any excuse to organize a party (whether Summer, Halloween, birthday, or other holiday). Make sure that at least some of the parties are in the child’s home in order to give parents a chance to see a typical family with a child who may be somewhat different. The more the family of the child with autism normalizes the environment, the more sanguine the parents of typically developing children will be; consequently, the greater the likelihood that those parents will allow their children to attend play dates with the child challenged by autism.

Not only will this strategy generate invitations to other children’s parties, it will also open up the possibility for reciprocal play dates at the typical child’s home (with an autism therapist shadowing). An added benefit to the party strategy is that the typically developing peers will start to become emotionally invested in the child with autism when they are at school together, which over the years, improves the prospects of developing a typical peer group for the child afflicted with autism.

What do we do about the parents of the children who do not attend and may be too rude to RSVP? In fact, they have just done the parent of a child with autism a great favor: they’ve failed the litmus test! In other words, they have lost the privilege of spending time with the child challenged by autism, and have forfeited a fascinating, enriching learning experience for their child.

Life is too short to waste on people who are not worth it!

Despite some parents’ ill-mannered behavior, it is wise to continue to invite all the children in the class, even those who have a pattern of non-attendance. Over the years, children who have been unable to attend the parties may eventually persuade their parents to allow them to attend, and actually teach their parents a valuable life lesson.

There are two kinds of people in this world, those who get it, and those who don’t. Why waste valuable time on those who don’t?



Sabrina Freeman, Ph.D. (1958-) was born in Montreal, Quebec, and grew up in Vancouver, British Columbia. She graduated from Stanford University in 1995 with a Ph.D. in Sociology, specializing in small group research and the study of organizations. Upon her return to British Columbia, Freeman spent 14 years advocating for the rights of children with autism to be included in the government funded health care system for their core health need -- autism treatment. During this period, so many parents were desperate to access treatment programs that Freeman created a 35 minute VHS/DVD [Autism: Now What Do I Do?] to help guide parents through setting up science-based treatment programs for their children. In 2002, she was awarded Queen Elizabeth's 50th Golden Jubilee Medal for advocacy work done on behalf of children afflicted with autism. Freeman's advocacy culminated in the now famous Supreme Court of Canada ruling Auton (Guardian ad litem of) v. British Columbia in 2004.

During the last 15 years, Freeman wrote several books on autism, one of which [Teach Me Language] has been subsequently translated into French, Italian and Norwegian. The next book she wrote, [Science for Sale in the Autism Wars], chronicles the struggle children with autism face against a system that does not recognize their rights to treatment. Her most recent book [The Complete Guide to Autism Treatments (2011)] is an up-to-date evaluation on the various treatments offered for children with autism. Her hope is that through her scholarship, thousands of parents will not have to go through the uncertain journey of generations of parents of newly diagnosed children. Instead, she offers parents a way to quickly evaluate various treatments and make sure that their child receives science-based treatment rather than treatments based on testimonials and good wishes.

Dr. Freeman lives in the United States with her family, including a daughter with autism.


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