By Ellen Raede (Danny's mom)
Raising a son with Asperger's, we often had to celebrate in a different way. Here are three examples:
1) When Danny turned 12, we were on vacation in Seattle. To celebrate his actual birthday, Danny didn't want a party or special dinner, but instead requested a tour of Microsoft Headquarters. Fortunately, we had a business acquaintance whose son coordinated a fabulous tour of the campus. I really didn't understand all of the technical terms or descriptions of software – but Danny did! He was focused, happy, thrilled, and social doing something that he wanted to do.
2) Danny was raised Jewish, and that meant we celebrated his Bar Mitzvah at age 13. To prepare, he studied for months to learn to read Hebrew, learned some prayers, and wrote a speech about the meaning of his Torah portion. (A lot for any 13-year-old!) On his Bar Mitzvah day, he lead services, and then we had a celebration. We had just had the diagnosis of Asperger's, so I had a little better idea of what we should NOT do to celebrate. We shouldn't invite too many people. We shouldn't make too much of a fuss of him. We shouldn't celebrate with loud music. This was not the normal celebration of our community, but it was perfect for Danny. At the party celebrating him becoming part of the adult-community, instead of having lots of loud screaming teenagers dancing “YMCA,” we had a magician performing. Instead of expecting Danny to participate in any games, he was the judge. And, instead of him arriving into the room with full fan-fare, he sat on his Dad's lap watching close-up magic.
3) High School Graduation Day was perfect for Danny. My husband and I dreaded the thought of Danny having to sit through a few hours of speeches and a long line of students waiting to get their diploma. So, when Danny said he really didn't want to go through with the graduation ceremony, we were a bit relieved. But, we knew the importance of celebrating milestones, so we asked Danny for some alternative ideas. What he came up with was spectacular. On the day of everyone else's graduation ceremony, we drove the 1 ½ hours to Los Angeles, had dinner at an Italian restaurant where “picky-eater” Danny could be assured of finding something he'd like on the menu, and made our way to an outdoor venue to attend a symphonic concert featuring the music of video games called “Video Games Live.” Although my husband and I felt like we were in a foreign culture in unfamiliar territory, we were elated to see Danny very comfortable and happy and singing or humming along to every song.
Celebrations are important but we quickly learned that we had to do things Danny's way. And, we had fun too!