Tips for Planning a Special Needs Birthday Party
One thing we get asked about a lot is birthday parties—hosting them and attending them.
Birthday parties are a celebration, but not always for our kids. There can be a mixture of things that go on within the dynamics of a birthday party that can be wonderful, but overwhelming at the same time.
1. Plan Ahead
It’s very important to plan ahead for birthday parties. As a parent who has had to navigate many of these birthday parties, I think a lot about the environment. I know my kids can become overwhelmed in a party environment, which affects behavior. Sometimes we’ve done these parties at home, sometimes we’ve done them at event places that we are familiar with. Wherever the party will be, think ahead about how it might affect your child so that you can be prepared.
2. Birthday Party Activities
Another thing to consider is the activities that go on at birthday parties. Some birthday parties don’t have flexible schedules. If you’re attending a party and your child has difficulty with flexibility, you might want to ask the parent giving the party what the schedule will be in advance.
3. The Food You’re Serving
I also suggest that you ask about food. Diet can be a big issue with our kids with sensitivities. As a parent planning a party I think about the people I’m inviting to the party, and what their needs might be. As a parent attending a party, I will ask the host if I might need to bring some food that is more sensory-friendly, or something my child will eat and that they’re more likely to tolerate on their diet. And remember, birthday parties tend to involve a lot of sugar.
4. The Size of The Birthday Party
And remember that bigger is not always better! Many of my friends just have birthday celebrations with their family in a very familiar environment, and that’s a lot more fun for them than trying to navigate an overwhelming atmosphere. We as parents can handle having 25 people over for a birthday party, but a large party like that involves a lot of different behaviors and things going on the same time which is overwhelming for our kids.
When you host a party be mindful of the people you’re inviting. Be mindful of your environment and the size of the party, as well as the food and activities that might be going on. And if your kiddo loves a theme, stick with the theme that they love! This can make the party much more enjoyable for them!
5. When In Doubt, Ask Your Child’s Therapist
If you have a child who will have a party soon, or who will be attending a party, ask your clinician for their ideas about what they think will be optimal for your kiddo. We’d love to help you and your kiddo have a fantastic, enjoyable birthday party!