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TV birthday party for West Michigan boy raises autism awareness

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - TV viewers across the country watched a boy from west Michigan get a very special surprise birthday party Friday morning.

Colin, whos from Richland, was on Good Morning America.

His mother says he has a disorder similar to autism and Asperger syndrome.

She said Colin worried he wouldn't have friends to celebrate his 11th birthday.

So last month, she created a Facebook page to show him people care.

The page went viral and quickly got national attention.

Tina Robbins of Portage has been watching Colins journey closely.

For someone who has low self-esteem and doesn't think people like them to have millions of people all of a sudden people care about you. Wow, Robbins said. 

Shes very familiar with the social difficulties kids with autism and Aspergers face.

Her 12-year-old son Logan has autism and isn't able to talk.

Robbins said just being invited to classmates' birthday parties has given him a confidence boost.

Feeling wanted, feeling cared about, feeling good about yourself and that you have something to contribute, Robbins said.

Arlene Ferguson is a social worker who works with kids who have autism.

One of the deficits is knowing social cues. Other kids aren't as understanding and patient I would say, said Ferguson, who works with Kalamazoo Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. 

But the big national birthday party for Colin can spread awareness of the social isolation these kids sometimes face.

I think it gets people talking and realizing this is real and this is something in our community every day and parents need that support and the kids themselves need that support, Ferguson said. 

They say it's up to parents to talk to their kids about this.

Acknowledging there are some social differences, but accepting them. Not making them feel different or weird, Ferguson said.

I would say, take the time to get to know classmates, and as a parent, teach your children to do that. If we want others to accept us, we need to learn to accept others at the same time, Robbins said. 

The Facebook page for Colin is now up to 2 million likes, with words of support coming in from all over the world.