Vancouver dad’s tweet about his autistic son’s lonely birthday party sparked a flood | Wender Mind Kids

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He invited all 19 of his son’s kindergarten classmates to a birthday party. Two said they couldn’t come and one came but 16 didn’t answer at all

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Vancouver dad David Chen struck a chord when he tweeted that his child with autism spectrum disorder was the other kid in class, explaining how he invited all 19 of his kindergarten classmates to his birthday party, but only one showed up .

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Two said they couldn’t, but 16 didn’t answer at all, Chen said.

“There’s good and bad in this,” Chen said while spending most of Sunday morning responding to hundreds of messages of support.

As of late afternoon, his tweet had over 417,000 views, which is an enormous number of times he’s been seen and retweeted, liked, or replied to, especially considering that Chen, despite running unsuccessfully for Vancouver mayor in 2018, isn’t a celebrity is.

“I struggle to reply to every comment, but I think it’s so important how resonated this is with people,” he said.

Other parents of children on the autism spectrum shared their experiences of feeling isolated or shunned. Some replies wondered if there might be concerns about going to an indoor party now that COVID-19 restrictions such as mask use have been lifted.

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One suggested letting classmates know his son Max is neurodiverse could help families discuss and prevent his son from being teased or ignored. Others asked for support from various groups and associations.

“It breaks my heart to hear all the stories,” Chen said. “This is harder than what I’ve been through,” as he arrived at the indoor play center he’d booked for their party, bringing a platter cake and bags of candy just in case there was a chance people would get together would show even if they hadn’t answered.

Chen said he doesn’t know why he hasn’t heard from most families at all.

Maybe the online invitations got stuck in spam filters.

David Chen and his children Max, 6, and Guss, 2, in Vancouver, BC May 15, 2022.
David Chen and his children Max, 6, and Guss, 2, in Vancouver, BC May 15, 2022. Photo by Arlen Redekop /PNG

He also acknowledges that his son had a gradual onset that lasted until last month before he could be back in class for a full day after having some trouble adjusting. He picks him up and picks him up again 10 minutes later early. There weren’t many in-person birthday parties at the beginning of the year, so Chen didn’t have the opportunity to meet many other parents and children in those settings.

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Above all, he doesn’t want to be seen as blaming the teachers. He is grateful that his son’s class teacher is helping out with the gift bags at a small class celebration on Monday.

Chen and his wife have four children and his older daughter is also on the autism spectrum. Chen wanted to avoid the label’s stigma on his son since her previous birthday parties had more attendees, but those dwindled as she got older.

“But maybe I need to talk about this sooner with my ASD (autism spectrum disorder) son and others,” he responded with a suggestion for a benevolent post.

Still, it’s hard to resist the feeling that two weeks ago there was a birthday party for another kid in class, also in an indoor venue, and 16 out of 19 classmates, including his son, attended.

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Chen said his son said the party was “great,” but his reaction to his own party was definitely more muted, though he “can’t fully put into words what he’s thinking.”

Chen, a financial planner, works with families of disabled children and knows the practical burdens they face, let alone the heartache.

“That’s why I put this out because again I don’t want to assume the worst and point the finger of blame but for once people just don’t know there can be repercussions I think it’s good for the people the living struggles of.” Knowing parents with children with special needs.”

jlee-young@postmedia.com


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