Vancouver resident David Chen hoped last Saturday’s birthday party would be a blast for his son Max, who is on the autism spectrum.
It turned out that only one of Max’s classmates showed up at the indoor adventure playground.
While Max “had a blast” because he was unaware of the circumstances, “it was pretty depressing,” Chen said of his hunch that day.
Chen doesn’t know what the motives were of the 16 out of 19 parents who didn’t respond to his email invitation. After his tweet went viral on Sunday and Chen spoke to local media, he received messages from six parents saying the invitation had landed in their spam box.
Although he hasn’t heard from the other 10, he’s still not ready to conclude that his invitations were largely ignored for reasons attributable to his son’s condition.
“I don’t want to make assumptions,” Chen said.
“You would think there might be an answer; I don’t know, I don’t have the answer. I don’t want to put my finger on the blame. I think it’s the worst thing you can do. What I wanted to do was draw attention to what everyday life is like. It was quite depressing not having anyone at the party,” Chen said.
“It triggered a lot of other people who shared that they had experienced the same grief,” he added.
“It happened to my grandson too many years ago. The house was decorated. Gift bags. So much food. A child and his mother came to the door and gave him a present and are gone. It was so heartbreaking,” read a response to the viral post.
“Wow, I’m at a loss for words hearing your experience. I wish I could give you a hug in person,” Chen replied.
“Happy birthday to your child. For those of us who are different in any way, we treasure friends who show up. He’s lucky you’re sticking up for him. May he always have someone one that gets him by his side,” reads another response.
A silver lining has emerged, however.
Chen says he has contacted his school’s parent advisory council and is looking for ways to avoid any potential misunderstandings for parents regarding birthday invitations and social events.