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Birthdays on the Spectrum – A guest post by Jenni Marie

Guest blogger Jenni-Marie

Birthdays.

This is an interesting topic which I never associated with autism until I was diagnosed last March and then everything made sense. 

As long as I can remember any type of celebration was/is difficult. I think the fact that a celebration always means lots of people in one space. The anxiety of the fact that if plenty of people are in the same place then I cannot hear. Yep, sound sensitivity really is that irritating, it’s not that I’m asking you to repeat yourself for fun, it’s that I genuinely cannot hear a word you’re saying. Let’s not forget the fact that there’s normally lots of food, textures, smells and sounds. 

When I was younger I remember I used to really dislike going to parties, not only the sound sensitivity but meeting and greeting lots of aunts and uncles, friends ect. I used to take myself away from all the hustle and bustle and sit on the stairs, didn’t matter who’s house it was or who’s party I was always found sitting on the stairs where it was quieter. See the thing is I knew I was different from my peers but never fully understood why until my diagnosis. 

My birthdays fill me with anxiety/dread. I know that it’s meant to be a celebration but most times that means I have to invite people to help me to celebrate-but who do you invite when you have no friends? As long as I can remember I’ve never been the “popular” kid or the “cool” kid, I was always the shy, quiet, obedient kid. I always when I was younger invited random “friends” from school that I wasn’t really friends with- I am very good at fitting in with everyone like a chameleon. But as I’ve got older I realised that I don’t actually have true friends. When I organised my 21st I remember I hired a hall and a dj and invited lots of people…I bet you’ve guessed what happened? Only a handful of people turned up the majority my close family. All of this is why I dread celebrations and my birthday. 

My diagnosis helped me to understand my younger years and likewise to understand myself now. It has helped me to learn so much about what I like and don’t like and how much I can handle. 

Now I know myself, I know who I am and I’m comfortable with myself. I often avoid parties and big gatherings now unless I feel I can cope with all the sensory stimuli. Don’t feel forced into celebrations if you cannot handle it, likewise if you feel like celebrating then give yourself some time out to regulate. I always have fidgets to hand and a chew necklace which helps to regulate and self soothe. I would love to be able to set up a birthday card swap with other autistic people who like myself do not have friends and find birthdays difficult.