SASKATOON -- A man from Marcelin who has Apert Syndrome and is on the autism spectrum is celebrating his 23rd birthday a little differently this year due to COVID-19.

Ethan Verbonac’s mother, Krista, and his grandmother put together a birthday parade so he could celebrate his special day at a distance.

“We had family and friends drive by and we had all of Ethan’s favourite things. We had the police, we had a tow truck, we had a semi and we had our town maintenance equipment. We have such a supportive community. They care for Ethan so much,” Krista said.

The celebration felt “good,” Ethan said.

However, he has some trouble understanding why he can’t celebrate with family and friends as he normally would during the pandemic, according to his mother.

“He does know we have to stay home to keep ourselves healthy and to keep everyone around us healthy, but at the same time, it was hard for him to understand why this impacted his birthday. So, it’s been a little tough, you know, his whole life has kind of been disrupted by the pandemic,” Krista said.

Lauren Brandt, senior autism consultant with Autism Services of Saskatoon, said the amount of information coming out right now on COVID-19 can be overwhelming for people on the spectrum.

Changes in schedule can also be difficult to adjust to, she said.

“It can really help to build a routine that isn’t necessarily really strict but something that can evolve over time and help to provide some predictability to the individual’s day.”

Brandt said it’s also important to be honest about what COVID-19 is and why celebrating birthdays and holidays, among other things are changing as a result.

“Making sure that when you explain COVID-19 to individuals on the spectrum that we’re being really honest and being really concrete about why we’re doing it,” she said.

These are two things Krista said she’s doing with her son.

“We just do our best and we keep looking forward to the coming months and hopefully things will get back to normal.”