It's no secret birthday parties can be stressful for parents, which was the case for this mom whose son with autism received one RSVP to his ninth birthday party, an understandably tough situation. But in a heartwarming twist, an entire high school football showed up to the party, creating a day of fun and lasting memories.
Mom Lindsay Larsen took to Facebook on May 31 to share how her son, 9-year-old Christian, wanted to have a birthday party with friends from his second grade class. Despite Larsen's reservations (Christian has had only one class party in his life) she finally gave in due to her son's "begging."
Sadly, however, not many classmates RSVP’d to the party, according to her post on Facebook. “We sent the invitations out, and waited,” she wrote. “When days passed and I didn’t hear anything, I thought perhaps Christian forgot to pass them out. Then I heard from one [person]. He did pass them out.”
In the Facebook post, Larsen explained how some people can lack compassion when interacting with children with special needs. “I remember being so upset that people would think it was funny to put others down, or ignore them,” she recalled in her post. “I see the people fed up that they have to stop and wait for a special ed bus...I can promise them, that any parent who needs that specialized and more time-consuming bust stop, wishes they didn’t need it. They wish that their children could run and socialize with the kids at the corner.”
When Larsen opened up about the upsetting birthday party situation, a family friend who knew the local high school football coach pulled some strings, according to People.
Before they knew it, Idaho’s Nampa High School football team was in Christian’s backyard, with all of the children playing together.
“I was holding my breath to see how Christian would respond. I didn't know if he would be excited, overwhelmed, or puzzled by the team being there," Larsen tells Romper in an email. "Fortunately, there was no reason for me to worry. Christian was so excited for them to come."
But this time, she said it was “amazing” to see Christian so “comfortable” with his new friends.
"When the team came, the players got all the children to play together. They were interacting with them, and helping them throw the footballs and run plays," Larsen recalls for Romper. "It was the first time I've seen Christian successfully playing sports with his peers. They were all smiles."
Even when Christian broke his glasses while playing, something that would have usually affected him, the birthday boy "just rolled with it." "He handed them to me, and took off to play again," Christian's mother tells Romper.
Now, Larsen says that she hopes parents will exhibit more compassion toward children with special needs, modeling positive behavior that their own children can learn from when interacting with others on the autism spectrum. Knowledge about special needs, she says, is the only way to turn the unknown into something familiar.
“I think most poor behavior towards those with special needs comes from a place of not knowing what to do, or feeling uncomfortable,” she explains to Romper. “You have to address the hard feelings that you have and the discomfort. The way to overcome it is by learning.”
Larsen says she hopes parents will teach their children about special needs and help them understand how autism can affect behavior by answering their questions. “Knowledge is power,” she says. “And we can use it to build the world.” Well-said.