Today’s parents have more to consider when planning a birthday party for their children. We see more children with food allergies and special needs. As a mother of two little ones and friend of parents with autistic children and children with allergies, I have tuned in to a more detailed oriented group of party planners. After helping my friend planning a birthday party for a group of autistic children, I came across a few articles on tips for hosting the perfect Autistic Friendly Birthday Party. The main thing to keep in mind is that these children tuned in to their senses and colors, smells, sounds and touch are very important.
Here are some quick tips to creating your Autism Friendly Party:
The focus is to have fun and avoid meltdowns, and what better way to do so than having the party around your child’s favorite activity or toy. For example, if your child is obsessed with tires have a Car theme party. If your child likes building things have a Lego party or a Puzzles party. On the other hand, if you want to focus on their senses like touch and smells have a Painting party or a Mini Petting Zoo.
Most children with autism like to stay within the family and not get overwhelmed with strangers. Keep your party small, maybe just immediate family members (mom, dad, brothers and sisters). Invite only families they feel comfortable with or families from the autism community. Consider spreading out the celebration a little each day during the week of your child’s birthday. One small gift each day instead of a bunch of gifts the day of his/her birthday. All your party guests should be people that understand your child and are compassionate of his/her needs even if this means stopping the party abruptly.
Your child’s birthday is not a good time to introduce a new environment. Have your child chose a place where he/she will be comfortable and knows well. Usually home is the best for most, but some might feel pressure and tend to hide away when guests arrive.
Consider places like a Children’s Museum, Craft Studio or Park.
A way to avoid meltdowns is to keep your child entertained on activities you know he/she enjoys. Stick to the familiar activities and indulge the birthday child even if it’s a messy activity like hand paint or cooking. Let kids get messy and enjoy all their senses from touch to taste and smell.
Many researchers tell us again and again to steer away from high-sugar foods, specially for children with ADHD and Autism. Offer healthy snacks like fruits and vegetables. Make it fun by cutting the fruits with cookie cutters and give refreshing snacks like Italian ice or fruit smoothies.
Consider a gluten-free Cake option and make your own healthy sweets and cookies by using recipes that are ADHD and Autism friendly. There are tons of cook books out there that give you very simple guides to create the perfect menu for your little ones.
When it comes to goodie bags, give a bag full of goodies that focus on the senses. For example, give small puzzles, pens that have fruit smells, sensory balls, bubbles and stickers.
Opening gifts can be an overwhelming experience for an autistic child. If you are not hosting the party at home, consider bringing all gifts home and opening them one each day of the week. Some children don’t like to be the center of attention and might even have a meltdown from people singing happy birthday. Keep it simple and it is ok to have your child just open one gift when he/she feels ready.