The preteen years are rough for most people, and Aidan Aguilar’s autism hasn’t made them any easier on him. Now kind strangers are taking it upon themselves to help him celebrate becoming a teenager.
Dozens of people have mailed cards to Aguilar’s Elk Grove home after his mom, Megan, solicited birthday wishes for her son over Facebook. He’s been grinning ear-to-ear since unexpected greetings started popping up Wednesday.
“I’ve gotten over 100 cards,” Aidan said in a phone interview Friday. “I was surprised. My mom thought I might get 20.”
The cards have come from throughout the United States, including Virginia, New York and Washington. Aidan said he particularly enjoys the cards that feature pictures drawn by children.
Aidan’s dentist sent him over the moon with a birthday card last year. As his 13th birthday approached, he asked Megan, 31, if she thought the dentist might remember his birthday and send him another.
“It was like, ‘Wow, he remembered that,’ ” Megan said. “We haven’t done birthday parties for many years because of the friends issue, and we take him somewhere special, but we wanted him to feel loved by other people, not just his mom and dad.”
Megan posted a Facebook status and similar messages on a pair of local groups, one for moms and another for parents of children with autism, without telling Aidan. She thought 10 to 20 cards might come in.
Instead, 72 cards stuffed the Aguilars’ mailbox on Wednesday and Thursday, most from the Sacramento Valley but one from New Jersey. Several more have been promised from Italy, Australia, Nigeria and other foreign countries, though they may not arrive before Aidan’s birthday on Thursday.
Aidan was diagnosed with autism when he was 2 1/2 years old. Despite turning 13 on Thursday, he has the mental capacity of a 6-year-old, Megan said.
Harriet Eddy Junior High staffers have supported the Aguilars well since Aidan joined the student body in August, Megan said, and a couple of Boy Scouts in his troop treat him nicely at school. But junior high’s ordinary difficulties have been compounded by classmates who tease the hefty seventh-grader about his weight, speech impediment or perpetually underdeveloped motor skills.
“This year he has experienced bullying for the first time that I’m aware of and that he can comprehend,” Megan said. “He’s a very positive boy, but after this year he understands what bullying is.”
Megan said she didn’t tell her son about the request for birthday cards until he started opening them.
“He was just floored, like we had something like 40 cards the first day. He just couldn’t believe everyone had remembered his birthday,” she said. “Yesterday, he actually teared up for the first time in a long time that I had seen … he kept saying, ‘O-m-g, this is awesome, o-m-g, this is awesome,’ that’s his tagline. He was smiling ear to ear, telling everyone at school how he was getting so many cards.”
Aidan is displaying the birthday cards in his room and is sending thank-you notes to everyone who has sent him cards. He enjoys creating handmade cards, featuring his own artwork, for birthdays and Valentine’s Day, he said.
“What we say at our house is he’s not autistic, he’s awesome-istic,” Megan said. “It’s not a bad thing. It’s what makes him what he is, and he’s an amazing boy.”
Two Elk Grove restaurants, Lamppost Pizza and Red Robin, have offered to host Aidan’s birthday party. Megan said the family hasn’t yet chosen a venue for the celebration.
Cards can be mailed to: Aidan Aguilar, 3009 Babson Drive, Elk Grove 95758.