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Because of his autism, 7-year-old Timothy Rhynold had never attended a birthday party. His mother, Tricia Rhynold, felt it better to keep Timothy away from settings where he would be overstimulated.
But a touching invitation from a classmate changed everything — and because of it, Timothy got to have his first birthday party experience.
"Carter sat beside Timothy at school and he always talks about him," Ainsley Peikos wrote in the invitation to her son Carter’s birthday party. "I really hope he can come. ... Maybe Timothy can come earlier in the day if it would be too much with the whole class. Let me know so we can make it work."
"You wrote exactly what I needed to see that day and didn’t even know it," Rhynold wrote. "Because of your son he is included. Because of your son he feels wanted. Because of your son he has a voice. And I want you to know that because of you I can get through another day."
Rhynold, who lives in Ontario, Canada, said that before receiving Peikos’ invitation, she always avoided taking Timothy into chaotic environments.
"I just don’t feel like it’s right to take away from the birthday child if he has sensory overload," Rhynold told TODAY Parents. "Only in the past two years has Timothy been able to tolerate us singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to him or anyone else without screaming, fleeing and covering his ears. We are still teaching him basic social skills that children his age have mastered years ago."
But, thanks to Peikos’ willingness to welcome Timothy to the party in June, Rhynold said she decided it was time to let her son try a new experience.
"What stuck with me most was the line, 'Let’s make it work,'" Rhynold said. "I was blown away and very, very touched. ... I applaud Carter and his family for their acceptance of differences, and for including my son. We are all people, and they are all children when it comes down to it."
Peikos said her son had mentioned Timothy several times and described him as his friend. So, when the mom of two started planning Carter’s party, she began thinking of ways to include Timothy.
"My only question was how could we make it work?" Peikos said. "How could we make it a successful and happy event for Timothy? What food did he like? Could he come early? What could I have in his loot bag that he would like? I just wanted Timothy to feel comfortable and be happy while he was at the party."
Rhynold said her son did indeed feel comfortable and happy while celebrating with Carter. And the boys' families are already making plans for a summer play date.
"Timothy spent about 45 minutes on the inflatable (at the party) with Carter and some other friends. He had a blast — it was so beautiful to watch," Rhynold said. "It was hard to describe, but I definitely had a lump in my throat. These are good people. I can’t sing their praises enough for the kind of parenting they are doing."
Rhynold said the widespread reaction to her story has surprised her, but she hopes Peikos' example will inspire other parents to do something similar.
"I know there are tons of moms, dads, sisters, brothers and grandparents going through this autism journey, just like myself," she said. "There are most definitely dark days and often life gets overwhelming being a ‘special’ parent. It’s not about the good days; it’s about finding good in every day. Reach out to someone, anyone. We are out there. You just have to look a little bit."