Birthdays in our house start at the crap of dawn. Did I say crap? Oh I meant crack, obviously!
Elizabeth’s tenth birthday was no different, she had been secretly stressing about it for weeks, I had thought it was general excitement until she started really acting out and I sat her down to ask her why was she getting all stressed…it was then that she told me that she felt she couldn’t make a decision about her birthday. She didn’t know where she wanted to go, or what she wanted as a present and each time she came close to making a decision she started to become stressed out all over again.
Aspies are not the best with decision making, they feel overwhelmed with doubt, with anxiety and they analyse everything to death until they feel paralysed and can’t make any decision at all. I know I am generalising a bit, I know all people with Aspergers don’t find this difficult, but many do. Temple Grandin wrote about it and a recent study hypothesised that compared with neurotypical people, adults with Aspergers reported more problems with decision making including feeling tired, overwhelmed and anxious. They felt unable to make decisions quickly especially if it involved a change in their routine..in other words the ‘condition’ interfered with their decision making ability so it is little wonder that Elizabeth found it hard to plan her birthday!
She said that she wanted a Cabbage Patch Doll but couldn’t decide between the eight dolls available. It took her an hour because rather than trying to influence her decision I helped her work through the pros and cons of each doll. (Good job we were on Amazon not in Toys r Us!)
I went through a ridiculous amount of suggestions as to where to go, we tend to go out on a family trip and invite our friends along rather than doing parties, many of our friends have children on the spectrum so it can be an overwhelming experience for us and them to do a party. I suggested the Cinema, bowling, every indoor museum I could think of and she said no to every one! The only place she really wanted to go was Gulliver’s World but that wasn’t open on the day of her birthday so that was a ‘no’ as well!
Eventually I had to just tell her that I would do a surprise and that she must just accept it. She seemed relieved by that and stopped her worrying!
When she came downstairs she had all her gifts waiting for her on the breakfast table:
Well trained: she opens the cards first! The Cabbage Patch Kid! Mr Men books. She wants you all to know that her reading age is much higher than Mr Men…but she is a massive fan! A water fountain to add to the ‘sensory’ experience in her bedroom Oops there’s a birthday stripper! She stripped her clothes AND the bunting! On our way to the surprise birthday trip! Elizabeth is wearing her musical Elsa dress.
We went to The Sea-life Centre and also Legoland. Not much of a surprise you may be thinking…but Elizabeth loves these places and we don’t usually do both in the same day…plus with all the stress of Birthday-ing, a bit of something familiar calms things down a LOT!
Here she is in the entrance area with all the fishes that just swim around and around and around…it’s quite somnambulistic in that it creates almost a trance like state….maybe that’s just me. The trance was broken by the excitement of a dead fish and the Sea Life staff member fishing it out! They never tire of peeping through here and getting their pictures taken! It’s quite cool at The Sea Life Centre because you get a book when you go in and there are these check-in points where you get to stamp your book. My kids run from one stamping station to the next filling up their books. If you hand them in at the end you get a badge to say well done. Elizabeth becomes very calm when she watches the fishes Ha ha! The joy of a transparent look out tower!The Sea Life Centre Trafford has different rules to the other sea life centres we have been to where kids are actively encouraged to touch the Rays. At the Sea Life Centre they are asked not to. I love the way they put the health of their aquatic life before the customers. She announced to one of the staff members that it was her birthday and the lady went and got Elizabeth a badge. I thought that was pretty lovely of her. We then went to Legoland to meet our friends for lunch. My regular readers will know we have a food allergy list as long as your arm and really Legoland don’t have ANYTHING we can eat, but what is really good is that they allow you to take your own food. They have lots and lots of picnic tables and so we just buy our lunch and take it with us. The staff know us well and they know we are Annual Pass Holders because we have had them for the last three years so we get our brews at a reduced rate in the cafe and I don’t even need to produce my card any more!
Here is Elizabeth showing how her dress lights up in the dimly lit play frame! And here she is with Imogen, Leon, Elvi and Matti. She is showing off her turtle that we bought her in the gift-shop of The Sea Life Centre.
She ended up having a brilliant birthday. I will try and plan the next one with her a few months ahead of time so that she is spared the anxiety of the decision making!