One thing a lot of parents don’t think about when they decide to have children is the number of extracurriculars most children will be involved in, even just simple sleepovers with friends.
The other thing they may not know is how much some kids will be left out of, admitted the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.
Redditor AshtonLVII looked on as their son developed a friendship with a special needs child in his class, to the point that he wanted to start inviting him to events, including his next slumber party.
But knowing that their son’s friend would need more assistance than the other children at the party, the Original Poster (OP) was hesitant to invite him.
They asked the sub:
“AITA for not letting my son invite his special needs friend to his sleepover?”
The OP had reservations about their son’s newest friends.
“My son has been excitedly planning this sleepover with his school friends, and I initially had no issue with it since I’m already familiar with his friend group as they often come over to play basketball after school.”
“However, my son recently made friends with a boy named Jason who has special needs.”
“I’m not exactly sure what his condition is, but he clearly has some sort of developmental disorder and has the mind of a five-year-old despite being almost 12.”
The OP was concerned about how to include their son’s new friend at a slumber party.
“My son wanted to invite him to the sleepover, but I was hesitant since I wasn’t sure if I was equipped to handle someone with special needs.”
“Plus, Jason has a caretaker at school that is always with him, so I know he requires a lot of attention and supervision.”
“I initially told my son that he couldn’t invite Jason over because of his special needs, but he got upset and said that he didn’t want Jason to be left out since he’s his first and only friend.”
“I still told him no because I didn’t think I could care for Jason properly, and I didn’t think it was appropriate for my son to have to take on that responsibility either.”
The situation escalated.
“At this point, my son was having a bad attitude, so I decided to cancel the sleepover altogether.”
“When I told my wife about the situation, she called me an ableist for not wanting Jason to come over just because he has a disability.”
“She said that we should have called his mother to find out how we could accommodate him and make him feel included in the sleepover.”
“Was I the a**hole here?”
Fellow Redditors weighed in:
- NTA: Not the A**hole
- YTA: You’re the A**hole
- ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
- NAH: No A**holes Here
Some thought the OP was the AH for making ableist assumptions about Jason.
“YTA. Thankfully, your son gets his attitude from his mother and not you. Your wife was EXACTLY right.” – YouSayWotNow
“Talk to the other child’s family for f**k’s sake. YTA. Your wife is 100% correct that you’re an off-the-scale ableist. I really hope your child doesn’t start seeing disabled people as an inconvenience like you clearly do.” – walkyoucleverboy
“Not for being concerned about your ability to manage the situation but because you didn’t even try to find solutions.”
“Maybe a call to Jason’s parents to see if there were any accommodations or how sleepovers have been approached in the past, or inviting him for part of it but not the actual sleepover portion.”
“It sounds like your kid really likes him and cares about him feeling excluded, you could learn a lesson from your son.” – CrystalQueen3000
“YTA. Ableist and a little lazy, to boot.”
“You should have, at the very least, spoken to Jason’s parents to learn the extent of his needs before deciding whether or not you are able to provide adequate supervision.”
“Another option, if Jason sleeping over isn’t feasible, would be to have him join in for the first part of the festivities and then go home at bedtime or ask Jason’s parents to bring him around in the morning to enjoy breakfast and some playtime with the gang.” – rapt2right
“A phone call to Jason’s parents could have avoided all this.”
“They might have said Jason wasn’t ready for a sleepover yet. Or that he could come for dinner and cake, but would need to come home before bedtime. Or that he could participate, but would need a parent with him (which would have given you an extra adult to help out, which might not be a bad thing).”
“My perspective is that I have a nephew who is physically disabled. And my brother and SIL (sister-in-law) were so grateful for the parents who did not automatically exclude him from birthday parties, but who checked with them to find out what he could do, and what places around town were accessible to him.”
“There was great rejoicing by all the year Nephew figured out how to maneuver a laser tag gun and his wheelchair at the same time, opening up another option besides bowling and going to the movies for the birthday parties.”
“But the key thing was that the kids put up with the movies and bowling because, like your son, they wanted to include my nephew.” – krankykitty
“My daughter is special needs, and her friends’ parents ALWAYS talk to us before having her over. I am SO thankful that her friends have parents that are willing to learn and grow so my kiddo can be included in her friends’ lives.”
“This post made me so sad for your son and his friend, Jason.” – Kat1eBradley
“As a parent of three children with additional needs, YTA.”
“Your son sounds like an amazing, inclusive, compassionate, and supportive friend.”
“My children have had some friends like that, and they’re the most amazing little people. I’m always careful to try to hold a balance of letting them be kids together and also making sure the other child isn’t left in a position of constantly caring for my child.”
“Nobody owes my children their time, or their friendship, but some wonderful, empathic children are able to be understanding and put in a little extra effort to make the world a nicer place for everyone.”
“Kids with additional needs are constantly left out of things: by schools, by the community, and by organizations being unable to cater to them, by their peers, and by parents of their peers.”
“I’m betting that this child’s parent would have been over the moon to have their child finally included in something as a peer, by a peer, and would probably have bent over backward to provide you with help and support to make it happen for their child.”
“Shame on you for punishing your child for being supportive, rather than inconveniencing yourself by taking even the tiniest step to find out more.” – Ill-Assumption-661
But others respected the OP’s decision to recognize their own parenting limits.
“NTA. Talk to Jason’s parents about the sleepover. Get their input so you don’t look like the bad guy. Share your concerns with them.”
“They may agree with you in which case they would not let Jason attend if invited. So your son can invite Jason, but his parents would decline the invitation.”
“To appease your son and wife, ask Jason’s parents if they would consider holding a sleepover at their house instead.”
“Just best guesses on my part. Sorry about your situation.” – Ronotimy
“NTA. I agree with the OP.”
“I was an activity leader in an after-school care program 20 years ago. There was one kid who was autistic and he was a handful. I couldn’t imagine him at a sleepover.”
“The OP being concerned about not being able to adequately care for his son’s friend is valid.” – Teldori
“NTA. All the people who think you’re an a** live in a dream world of bubbles. If he is so handicapped that he acts like a five-year-old, then taking care of him PLUS a bunch of 12-year-old boys is not only not safe but also risky.”
“The fact that you foresaw this and actually admitted it may be too much to handle is the natural thing to do. Feelings aren’t everything. Practicality and safety come first.” – AlienBeingMe
“Going against the grain: NTA. It’s already a lot to have a few kids over. Adding a child with special needs that requires a full-day helper is probably too much for a parent who is not experienced with special needs kids.”
“Could he ask about what all would need to be done? Yes. But he’s not ‘ablest’ just because he doesn’t want to commit to caring for the child for a sleepover.”
“For the future, he could arrange short play dates so he can get experience with the child before committing to hosting him for 24 hours.” – Dazzling_Mixture_311
“You’d be responsible if anything went wrong, and you RIGHTLY admitted you’re not sure about looking after a child with disabilities.”
“Smart guy not to take the risk however it would have been worse to do some research and speak to the parents of the child to see if it’s something you believe you could manage.”
“NTA.” – rubba_tt
“NTA. It will be extra work and effort. If you’re not up to it, it’s okay to say no. Better to be honest and not agree to it and then not give the kid the extra assistance he needs, or treat him with resentment.” – Spoopa83
“NTA. I work with kids with different types of special and mental disabilities. Like you said, their age could be 12 but have a mind of a five-year-old.”
“They are great and wonderful little sweeties. But you have to know what to do when they all of a sudden have a meltdown and start screaming and attacking people or themselves. You need to know what’s in their care plan to calm them down or what their triggers are, or if they are runners or need help in the bathroom.”
“It’s mentally hard work. And if he has a para at school, you know it’s not going to be that easy.”
“But at the same time, they are still humans with feelings, even if some can’t show them. They are actually smart little cuties. They can sense what you’re feeling towards them and stuff.”
“You should one day invite him and his mom over for a little playdate and watch how he is and talk to the mom and ask her questions. Little steps and make him feel wanted.” – Party-Bumblebee8832
The subReddit could appreciate that a child with special needs would, of course, need some assistance in ways the OP’s son and other friends would not.
However, the subReddit was otherwise divided on how the OP had handled the slumber party plans.
Some admitted they would have made the same decision, while others felt that a conversation with the friend’s parents and practicing inclusion were more important.
Canceling the overall slumber party, all because their son was standing up for his friend, they agreed was totally over the top, however.