Every available surface of what, an hour earlier, had been an empty housing project community room had been decorated in the colors and likeness of Jamel Hunter’s favorite superhero, Spider-Man. There were Spider-Man balloons, cupcakes, a spider made of frosting on the birthday cake, even a homemade pin-the-tail-on-Spider-Man game.
The night was part party and part prayer, for it was a first for Jamel, 8, and his mother, Phyllis Atwood, 46, wanted it to be perfect.
Jamel has autism, and slight variations from his routines can be jarring, sending him into screaming fits or silent retreats to his own thoughts. The party was a huge leap. The volume of the music, the rows and rows of trays of barbecue and soft drinks and desserts, the brightly colored balloons — it was as if Ms. Atwood were making up for lost time, throwing him three or four parties at the same time.
Ms. Atwood, a single mother, is disabled from Blount’s disease, a condition in which the upper shin bone stops producing bone tissue; and failing kidneys that require she undergo dialysis three times a week. She had loaded her wheelchair with party supplies before making her way from their apartment to the party.
The family receives support and services from Kennedy Child Study Center, a Catholic Charities sponsored agency acknowledged as a leader in educating and supporting children with intellectual disabilities.
Read their full story published Christmas Day in The New York Times.