A few weeks ago Dante came home from school with an envelope tucked into his communication binder.
It was an invitation to the birthday party of a boy in fourth grade.
To say I was stunned is an understatement. I honestly did not know what to do. The mom had written a note in the invite, asking me to please bring Dante to the party, or just to their house for a bit, because her son really wanted Dante to be a part of his birthday. She included her phone number so we could talk about it.
Several days later I did call her (because I am a world class procrastinator), and while she did not know Dante has Autism she had "gathered he had something going on"). I also mentioned that since he has Down Syndrome too he is not some kid with high functioning Autism. She insisted that her son really likes Dante and is a sweet boy, so I agree to bring Dante to this (indoor) pool party.
To backtrack, Dante is in a completely separate special needs classroom, but kids visit them, and Dante has been visiting the 4th grade. Recently he even began eating with other kids in the cafeteria, and goes outside for recess. This is how he became known to the birthday boy, and is considered a friend by him.
I am not really sure how much Dante understands friendship, but I've been telling him for over a week that he will be soon going to his friends birthday party, and that we will be swimming. I was a bit anxious, but was going to go through with it. (Especially since Dante loves swimming.)
Yesterday when I told Dante it is time to go, he went out the door and into the van quickly, so I think he understood. He didn't greet anyone there, but did walk around checking out the party room. Everyone was very nice and despite knowing no one it was looking good. After he and I changed everyone was heading to the pool, where he promptly tried to jump in, despite the directive by the lifeguards for everyone to sit on the bleachers for rules.
I thought it would be awkward, but I honestly had no problem being the only mom NOT on the bleachers chatting, but instead being the only Mom IN the pool with her kid. Dante and I had so much fun "swimming" for almost an hour, and every few minutes his friend swam over to ask Dante if he was having fun and to give him a splash. I assured him Dante was enjoying himself and helped Dante splash back.
Then the lifeguard rang the "pool time's over" whistle, Dante did NOT want to get out.
Have you ever tried to wrestle an octopus out of the ocean, dry it off with a towel, and get it dressed? While it is yelling at you? And all the beachgoers are trying not to watch or let their kids stare? (This process lasted from the getting out, getting the towel, through the hallway, into the bathroom, and back into the party room.)
Poor Dante had a very difficult time accepting that his pool time was done. The mom and I had already discussed that Dante would not stay for the remainder, because of being overstimulated...and his diet concerns on my part. So we finally got it all together and headed home.
Despite the dramatic ending, I am very glad I took Dante to the birthday party. He and I had a lot of fun in the water, and he made so much eye contact it was amazing.
This was the first time in more than 10 years that one of the kids has been invited to a birthday party.
This morning I put Dante's communication device in front of him and asked, "Did you have a good time at the pool birthday party yesterday?"
Dante reached over and tapped, "Yes".
God is good.
(And that was Dante's first time using the device to answer a query instead of making a request!)