Autism and Valentine’s Day: An Exhausting Love Ritual

It’s an act of love on Diego’s part -and mine

I need to clear my schedule and find zen to help Diego with his yearly Valentine making ritual. It takes forever and, unlike Diego, I don’t have forever. Our perceptions of time don’t match up and I must move things along if I want to get to anything else at some point.

Each Valentine is a four-page booklet. On pages 1 and 2, I drew small boxes for Diego to form legible letters spelling H-a-p-p-y V-a-l-e-n-t-i-n-e-s d-a-y, like so:

Happy Valentine's Day

Heart colored in

As soon as Diego mentioned anything he wanted me to write, his associative thinking kicked in.

Valentine's card

Every chance he gets, Diego tells people to come for a visit and what he’d like to do with them. He always mentions things he knows the other person enjoys.

It’s only a slight exaggeration to say that happiness is the experience of spending time with people you love and who love you.”

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Why 27 Could Be Your Most Epic Birthday

Or your 32nd or 81st – if you’re at all like my autistic son

Young man smiling
The day before the big 27

Have you noticed I’ve been absent lately? Not replying to emails, texts, WhatsApps and phone calls? Always rushed?

Well, it’s because my son’s 27th birthday consumed me for a while there.

I attribute Diego’s fixation on birthdays (and Disney, dates, movies, animals, countries…) to his autism — but who knows right?

The runup to this particular birthday started 364 days ago, on January 14, 2020 to be exact, the day after Diego’s 26th birthday.

“I’m already 26,” Diego would comment now and then at first. Soon though, his thoughts turned to the next big one: 27.

“I can’t believe I’m gonna be 27 in January 2021!” he’d say, not only in December (the month before his birthday) but also in March and April, even though he was closer to his 26th than 27th. Other comments included, “Isa’s turning 27 in February and I’ll be 27 in January 2021,” and “Lole got married in January 2001 and I’ll be 27 in January 2021.”

Soon enough, Diego began delineating the specifics of the occasion: “I want to have trivia and karaoke for my birthday. And pizza and tacos.”

Inevitably, though, at some point COVID had him worried, “Can I have trivia and karaoke for my birthday?”

“Well, sure,” we’d say back in May and June —  when January felt distant and without considering the possibility the pandemic would be raging six months down the road.

It didn’t escape Diego that folks started having all manner of Zoom celebrations. Around November, he shifted gears and started to talk about having a Zoom karaoke/ trivia for his birthday, with tacos and pizza.

The whole thing came together around two weeks before the big day.

The day before

The day before his birthday, we had tacos with Pati, Diego’s beloved caretaker.

As on the ensuing two days, Happy Birthday was sung (in Spanish on this first day of the festivities):

The day of

The day of, Diego had his regular Wednesday Zoom get-together with friends, organized by two school teachers because they are awesomely generous people who enjoy and get adults with developmental disabilities.

After the Zoom, there was pizza, followed by cake with friends and relatives — some in-person, some remote.

The evening culminated with a showing of video clips and messages from friends and family. All were deeply appreciated, a few also unexpected (nod, wink and blown kiss to Jenn P, Liz, Ana & Jim).

The day after

The day after, there was karaoke in honor of Diego’s birthday during his regular Thursday Zoom with friends — this one organized by the kindest staff from a local agency serving our community.


It’s been two days since we wrapped up the big 27 and I can’t think of a way to properly thank people for the good wishes sent to Diego. When gratitude is infinite, how do you do that? There’s no way, so I’ve settled for a simple THANK YOU” from the bottom of our hearts.

There is, dear friends, a great deal of generosity, kindness and love in this world, even if most of what we see and hear through every type of media is the evil that competes with it.

Diego, and so many other people who are loving and vulnerable like him, attract and bring out the tender side of human nature. That’s one of their huge contributions to the world.

Yeah, there’s a price to pay. Diego’s birthday was just two days ago and I know it won’t be long before he starts talking about the big 28 and I need to start planning. All. Over. Again.


Even Hollywood celebrities were invited to Diego’s birthday:

You’re Invited to My Autistic Son’s 27th Virtual Birthday Party

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