Courtesy photo/Special to Alachua County Today

Six-year-old Braxton Kiernan likes to recieve birthday cards.

NEWBERRY – Last year, Newberry Mom Daphne Kiernan rented out the city of Alachua’s Splash Park to celebrate her son Braxton’s 5th birthday. But it turned out to be a disappointment, she said.

“Last year, we tried to do a party, and we rented the whole splash park and only two kids from his class showed up,” Kiernan said. Even though Braxton knows student that he goes to school with at Newberry Elementary, his mom says he has trouble socializing and making connections that last.

“They don’t know how to socialize,” she said about many children with autism. “Braxton plays by himself a lot,” she said. “He can’t seem to keep that friend or that conversation or that playtime going. His attention span will drop every five minutes.”

Other parents of autistic children say they have experienced the same situation,” said Kayla Wagner, who also has a son with autism.

Wagner lives in Midland, Michigan but started a facebook page called “Autism Parent Birthday Card Swap.”

I created the page about a year ago, shortly after my son was diagnosed with autism,” said Wagner, “After his diagnosis, I joined several support groups and, one of the things I noticed quickly, were how many parents discussed their frustration and disappointment when attempting to throw their children birthday parties.

“So many kiddos would invite their classmates and friends, but come party day, very few, if any, friends would show up. This is sadly a very common situation for us with kids on the spectrum. So seeing how there were so many other families out there dealing with the same issue, I decided to start the birthday card swap page.

“A simple card can truly brighten a child's day and make their birthday really special. It's a way to remind them that they do have friends and they aren't alone. Not many kids can say that they have friends from all over the world either, so that also makes this bond between the kids even more unique. This page also goes beyond just birthday cards. We also allow families to find others to pen pal with, and just last December, the members decided to do Christmas cards as well. It's a very awesome group of people who all want the same thing for their kids, acceptance and friendship.”

Kiernan posted Braxton’s birthday and a P.O. address on that page and several others.

My son (will be 6) has no friends and being retained in kindergarten has no friends. He would love some birthday cards this month. (BIRTHDAY is 7/31),” she posted. “Please send to Braxton Kiernan, P.O. Box 85, Newberry, Florida,  32669. Thank you so much.

As of July 29, Braxton has received 9 cards,” Kiernan said.

Kiernan tried the same experiment last year and had a much bigger response.

“Last year, for two weeks straight he was getting cards,” she said, “And he was so excited.”

Kiernan says she also sends cards to other kids.

She is disappointed that only nine cards were sent to Braxton this year.

He got 25 last year,” she said. “He gets excited and jumps up and down.”

Braxton turns 6 on July 31. But a belated birthday card will mean just as much to him.

Kiernan hopes the idea spreads.

And according to Wagner the group she created “is for helping children with autism from all over receive cards from near and far on their special day! Let's spread the love and make every birthday one to remember by sharing it with friends!”