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The birthday party photo that broke dad's heart: 'Feeling empty'

By Madhurima Haque|

Children's parties are supposed to a celebration - but one dad was left heartbroken after only one person turn up to the sixth birthday party for his son Max, who is autistic.

"My autism spectrum disorder kid is the different kid in the class. We invited all his classmates to his birthday party today & only 1 showed up. Difficult to explain to my kid & that kid's mum that only one classmate came. Not making assumptions but still an empty feeling day," tweeted Vancouver dad David Chen.

Max was especially excited about his birthday party as two weeks prior, he and 15 others out of the class of 19 attended a classmate's birthday party. Though he had said that one was "awesome", his reaction to his own was much more muted. "(He) isn't fully able to verbalise what he is thinking," Chen wrote.

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Left: empty play centre, Right: Max blowing out a candle on his cupcake.
Max's dad was disappointed at the turnout for his birthday party. (Twitter)

All hope was not lost, however, as Max received an outpouring of offers after his dad's tweet went viral. He received invitations to birthday parties, soccer games, and even a ride in a police car from the Metro Vancouver Transit Police.

The family also took up a gracious offer from 365FunDays, an entertainment and kids play centre, who offered a re-do for Max's party.

"We've asked that it be turned into a graduation celebration for his class as a thank you to all for being such a supportive community. Everyone agrees this is a good way to be inclusive & heal wounds," Chen tweeted.

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Max was also treated to an in-class party when he returned to school, courtesy of his "fantastic teaching team". "He said 'I loved it!'" according to his dad on Twitter.

Chen also mentioned that some of the parents in the class reached out to him to tell him their invitation had been in their email spam box, which he tells Global News Canada is "a fantastic start...We can learn from this."

The dad has also made efforts to draft a proposal that schools have a fund to provide for class birthday parties for those who cannot afford it.

"Every child needs to be celebrated at least once by their daily peers. School is where friendships start & this rite of passage can hurt," he said.

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