News Article Details

Their Voice: A common interest creates the ideal birthday

Daily Herald - 8/15/2017

Emily Ybarra knew when she asked her son Cruise what he would like to do for his 10th birthday party, it was going to be unique. Diagnosed with autism at the age of three, Emily had gotten used to his unconventional party ideas, but when Cruise suggested a bird watching party, Emily feared she was over her head.

"Cruise began to show interest in birds a couple of years ago," Emily said. "But it wasn't until this past year that he really got into it."

It was then that Cruise would come home from school, grab his mother's nice camera and spend time outside finding and taking pictures of birds around the neighborhood. This new hobby became a learning experience as he began to study different types of birds and began to point out and identify birds he would see during his trips in the car. As his interest flourished, he did his science project on what color birds preferred by experimenting with various colors of feeders in the yard. As his interest grew, Cruise finally decided to ask for a live bird for Christmas two years ago.

Two years ago, he asked for an eagle for Christmas, but received a little robot bird instead. The robot bird appeased him for a while, but he became extremely passionate about getting a bird this year. His parents felt he was old enough and more responsible so they decided to get him a pet budgie for his birthday.

Based on his history and continued interest in birds, Emily wanted to fulfill his wish to have a bird watching birthday party but had no idea how to make it happen. Emily thought of some fun things to do at the party, but also wanted to hire someone to bring and talk about birds to the group. After unsuccessfully approaching some professional companies she decided to reach out to the one resource that many of us use today for solutions: social media. Emily posted on the Utah County Birders Facebook page about her search.

Luckily, Laurie Bowen from UVU Nellesen Autism Center happened to see the post and instantly knew she had a perfect solution. Laurie was acquainted with Laura Despain, a student at UVU, who like Cruise, had a great interest and passion for birds. Although Laura is usually shy around people, Laurie knew that this interest would help her overcome that shyness and be the ideal candidate to deliver the bird watching party Cruise was asking for. Laurie reached out to both parties and got them together to meet.

Laura presented at the birthday party to about eight kids who were all so enthralled. She brought a chicken and two pigeons and the kids really enjoyed petting, holding, and learning about them. She talked about identifying birds, different eggs, feathers, and other really cool information. She was so nice to give each kid a peacock feather, and gifted a filled goose egg to Cruise. Cruise really loved having her come, and it made a huge impression on the other kids as well.

The reason I share this story is not as much about a boy and his unique birthday party. It is about one person being interested enough in others around her that she knew the things that brought them joy, and she took the time to connect them. She created a mutual experience for two people who otherwise would not know each other bringing them together for a day they would both remember. I would guess that Laura and Cruise will share this mutual interest for a long time and will continue to use it as a way to connect with others.


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