If you were to ask me if I think you should give your child with autism a birthday party my response will be, “do you think your child wants a birthday party?” I mean this with a heart full of love and respect for you and your child, but many times the parent pushes their own agenda on a child who has no control over the matter.
So what can you do?
Well, first you can ask if they even want a party. I know it doesn’t make me popular to suggest this but the reality is that a party usually fulfills the parents need, not the child’s. Think about it, often times most kids with autism are too overwhelmed to enjoy it and would much prefer something small with one child they can relate to and/or just immediate family. But the reality is your child is a child and it may be worth trying out the whole birthday party thing…so…
If you are moving forward with a party because you think your child wants a party then follow these tips for a happy birthday:
1. Theme the party. Choose one of your child’s favorite things and make that the theme. It could be food, a video game, a movie…anything!
2. Plan activities that will work for your child’s needs and not send them running from their own party in meltdown mode! If your child hates getting their hands dirty then art is not the type of party to have! If they love the trampoline, a gymnastics party may be the way to go. Think about this one, it’s important!
3. Keep it small. Invite only the children or family that you know your child really loves. This will help make for a calmer party environment. It will also help you when the people that your child cares about actually show up! One of my favorite tips is to make an old-fashioned phone call inviting the small group of kiddos (and their parents if you choose to invite them as well)! In this situation a phone call goes a long way!
4. Host it in a calm environment. Your home or an environment that provides structure (gymnastics, places like build-a-bear, art studios, etc) where instructions/a routine is given will help add to the success. These options provide structure but allow for the children to also enjoy themselves if they do not follow the instructions or structure of the party. It should be fun and the kids shouldn’t be forced to do or complete anything. The goal is to have FUN!
5. Open the gifts after the party. Gifts can be overwhelming and time consuming. Plus, if you have an overly honest kiddo… They may say a few things about the gifts that might just make you wanna crawl under the table and hide! So open them at home after the party, in private. And do one gift at a time. It is overwhelming to open all the gifts at once. Space it out (by a couple hours… a couple days) it will be more fun that way anyways!
Take these tips and apply them to your child’s next birthday party for a successful birthday experience! Hugs to you and your kiddo! And happy birthday!!!
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Hallie Bulkin is a Certified Speech-Language Pathologist. She strives to help others receive the support they need to make a positive change in their children’s communication skills. If you’d like to know more about helping your child communicate, Hallie is happy to answer your questions.
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