Post # 1
This is a very sensitive issue, and we are not sure what to do.
My close friend has a 10 year old autistic – nonverbal daughter, all call her J. With little or no warning, J will just randomly start screaming at the top of her lungs. She also kicks and bites when she goes off. We have had to leave numerous restaurants, movies, etc. because of this behavior.
My concern is this, my friend wants to bring J to our wedding. My firance and I are not comfortable with this. We are terrified of having our ceremony interrupted by a screaming fit – especially during our vows. We have been waiting a long time for this day (he’s 47, I’m 37, and this is the first wedding for both of us).
We are considering have an adult’s only wedding and reception, but I want my niece, nephew and 4 godchildren there. I KNOW they will behave.
I don’t want to hurt my friend, but we just refuse to have the most important day of our lives interrupted by a screaming fit. Sould we offer to pay for a babysitter?
Post # 3
Will the children you want there be flowergirl and ringbearers? It’s actually common to have adults only but then have children in the wedding party.
Post # 4
Are you close enough to your friend to discuss your concerns? I’m a little surprised she wants to bring the child, as parents with autistic children tend to be very aware of situations that stress their children out. If you aren’t comfortable discussing this with her, then doing a “no kids except those in the wedding party” wedding might be your best option, but be sure to implement it across the board.
Post # 5
the only children that we are inviting to our wedding are those who are in the immediate family such as neices and nephews, and our own children. Other than that, cousins etc, aren’t invited. I don’t think it’s rude. Just let your friend know that she will have to arrange for a sitter because it’s going to be adults only. I’m not even letting my MOH bring her children.
Post # 6
@nmsoonerbride: I’m a little surprised she wants to bring the child, as parents with autistic children tend to be very aware of situations that stress their children out.
That’s true, but they’re still parents. Even the most understanding of parents will probably still think their children are better than everyone else’s, and if she’s close with OP it’s understandable that she’d want her child there to experience such a special event. If I were her, I’d understand completely but still be a little sad that my child was excluded, when others weren’t, for being a potential nuisance. I know a wedding is an emotional thing and that the couple has a particular vision about how they want it to go, but life doesn’t stop while you get married. There’s no guarantee this child will have an episode, and even if she does, is the wedding ruined? That’s not really a fair thing to say.
That said, you can absolutely have an adults-only wedding, for whatever reason you want. I really don’t think she’d have any problem with that. I’d just be very careful not to invite any children that you don’t have to, or that aren’t family. It’s going to be pretty obvious to your friend if she comes to an adults-only wedding without her kid and bumps into a kindergarten class when she gets there. Also, please don’t offer to pay for a sitter unless you’re planning to pay for everyone else who has a kid that won’t be coming. I don’t know about your friend, but I’d probably see that as a bribe to leave my kid at home.
Post # 7
Do they have someone who can watch her if they attend the ceremony alone? How well do you know the daughter? Maybe they want her to experience this, too. I would treat her with the same respect as you would a parent of a toddler-explain your concerns and then ask them to remove her if necessary for a few minutes until she calms down.
Post # 8
I think your concerns are perfectly justified. I know several people with autisitc children and I think they are saints–this is a very challenging condition. However, they would never dream of bringing them to a wedding. Especially since unfamiliar situations seem to cause outbreaks.
Since I had only my nieces/nephews/godson, I think it is perfectly OK to do that. They were also all attendants. No one seemed to have any issues with that.
I agree with the PP about not offering to pay for a babysitter, unless you are going to do that for everyone.
Post # 9
Like everyone else has said, you can make the wedding adults-only except for those in family or in the wedding. That is what we are doing. But, I actually work as a behavior therapist for Autistic children who are unable to attend public schools. I am having a child I work with outside of school as my ring bearer. He is 10 years old and has severe autism. His parents are very aware of his behavior at all times and will remove him if they feel it necessary.
If you were to invite your friend’s daughter, would you be able to tell her that she could sit in an aisle so she can quickly walk out with her daughter if need be? The parents I work with are always “on guard” when in public places. They also have a really tough time finding a babysitter. Imagine worrying all night that your child has attacked someone not trained to handle this. So, they usually go places with their kids or they don’t go at all.
It is a very sensitive issue and being a bride and someone who works with Autistic children I see both perspectives. Ultimately this is your wedding day and you can say no children, only family children, or just offer to pay for the sitter. Though like i said, make sure she even has a sitter she is comfortable with.
Post # 10
Just another way to look at it too–I know that often children on the autism spectrum have a lot of trouble with highly stimulating environments. (And I have to say that a wedding certainly falls into that category, as would restaurants, movies, and places where it sounds like she has trouble).
If you do feel comfortable addressing them, it could be phrased like, “I know J often has trouble in environments where there’s a lot going on, as we’ve seen in the movies, restaurants, etc. I know that our wedding will have a lot going on, and I don’t think it’ll be a comfortable environment for her.” So, not necessarily saying you don’t want her there, but more playing to your (valid) concerns about J’s comfort. And, if you feel like you’re okay with it, maybe offer support in helping her find someone to watch her.
And, you could also do what PP’s suggested, and say with the exception of the wedding party, it will be an adults only event. Definitely nothing wrong with that.
Post # 11
As someone who works in special education with most of my experience predominantly in autism, I do understand your concerns. Tantrum behavior can often be unpredictable with frustrations stemming anywhere from denied access to sensory overload. I think you should approach this situation as any couple who is contemplating whether young guests will or will not be invited to a wedding ceremony/reception. I do not, however, think you should single your friend’s daughter out specifically, citing her behavioral challenges as a reason for exclusion. That may seriously hurt your friend’s feelings and further perpetuate the idea that those with special needs aren’t welcome in society.
Does your friend’s daughter attend a special needs school? Is she receiving school-based services or home programming to better help her cope with her disability? If so, perhaps your friend could hire one of her behavior aides who can be at her side throughout the wedding? Those with experience in autism are usually well-versed in positive behavior reinforcement, and can usually relocate the child swiftly if her behavior begins to interfere. Just a thought.
Good luck to you!
Post # 12
- Wedding: January 2011 - Vintage Villas
Like a few other people who have posted, I work in special education with children with autism, and I have a great deal of experience in tantrumming, etc. In my experience, kids with autism tend to be much more aware than many people give them credit for, and will often rise to the occasion when they know something important is happening.
Of course, that’s not always the case and there is of course always the chance that the child will become overstimulated or stressed out by the number of people, etc. and could display problem behavior. I think that others have made great suggestions as far as having the mom sit on an aisle so she can easily remove her daughter if she starts to tantrum. Also, I’m sure the mother is very well-versed in how to deal with any problem behaviors her daughter might have and she probably knows the best ways to help her daughter succeed in social situations!
If you plan to have an adults only wedding, that’s perfectly fine, and I think it’s acceptable to still have a couple of children there who are involved in the wedding. But beyond children in the wedding party, it’s unfair to invite other kids when you are telling your friend that children aren’t invited.
Post # 13
@judithsr: Love that suggestion! The only problem I could see happening is the parents saying, ‘well, yes, but we would love to bring her!’
I think the PP’s have a good point to not offer to pay for a babysitter. It could come across as off-putting to the parents. Even though it’s a great intention, it might make them feel like she’s a nuisance.
I think your best bet is to make it adults only, with the exception of the wedding party/family, and leave it at that. It takes away all the awkwardness, plus, they won’t feel singled out.
Post # 14
Hi there! I can understand your situation. You want your special day to be perfect, yet you don’t want to hurt your friends feelings. I, too, work with children that have Autism and other special ed. needs (I’m a Speech-Language Pathologist). I really like izziebear and cardigan’s suggestions. Most likely, Mom will be very well prepared for the event. She’ll bring items that are considered entertaining for her daughter and some of her favorite snacks too. She may wait until a few minutes before the ceremony to enter the venue, so that she doesn’t become restless. Other things that might be helpful would be to have the child with Autism visit the venue prior to the wedding, so that she’s more familiar (the sights, sounds, smells, etc.). Also, one of her therapists could write a Social Story to help her know what will happen and what the expected and acceptable behaviors are. I’m pretty confident that your friend will not want her daughter to “interfere” with your wedding, so have some trust in her. Regardless of what your decide, I’m sure that everything will be a-o-k!
Post # 15
My husband’s nephew is autistic and sometimes acts out. I explained the wedding plans in detail to my sister-in-law. I told her the only kids there would be nieces and nephews. I explained how long the night would last, where they would be sitting and that the venue is not really kid friendly. I gave her all of this information so she could make the decision to bring her son or hire a babysitter.
His nephew ended up coming to the wedding and he was great. I think he was so good because the entire family was watching him, sitting by him, walking in the foyer it got too loud. And I think he likes me and was happy to see me 🙂
So if you leave it up to the mom, give her more info than you think is necessary. Let her judge how many things at your wedding or reception might be a tantrum trigger (flashing lights, loud music). Let her know if there is another area she can take her child to if she has a tantrum or if she has to go outside of the building.
Post # 16
@melisslp: I love the social story idea too and definitely second it!! Social stories are fabulous, and I used them when I worked with autistic children. If you do decide to invite her, definitely ask about having a therapist write a social story. You could even read it to her!