The excitement of birthday parties can simply overwhelm some children with autism. The traditional party with a crowd of noisy kids, lots of sweets, balloons, and piles of gifts can lead to a meltdown. With a bit of creative planning, you can host a special celebration without the usual birthday party hype.
Take into consideration your child’s age, interests, and tolerance level. For example, if she struggles with changes in schedule, then encourage a few folks to drop by without fanfare during a routine activity such as supper or swinging in the back yard. If she has dietary restrictions that do not allow for cake and ice cream, just serve ziplock sacks filled with her favorite snack. Give her a chance to connect individually with friends and family, even if just briefly. Shoot video or snap pictures discreetly. The birthday girl may enjoy reviewing the event later. Only include activities such as singing “Happy Birthday” and opening gifts if they don’t raise red flags or trigger inappropriate behaviors.
Another option for a memorable birthday celebration is to invite a few family members and friends on a field trip. You can go to the zoo, the park, or other favorite hang-out. Your friend with autism might enjoy a campfire, a group bike ride, or even a tour of the local fire station. The firemen will usually let the youngsters sit in the fire truck, try on big fire coats, hats, and boots, and give them a tour of the fire station. The firemen can also talk to the kids about fire safety and how to evacuate in the event of a fire.
Summer birthdays can have a water theme. Pre-schoolers enjoy just running through the sprinkler. An older youngster with autism might enjoy a gathering with family and friends at the swimming pool, a water park, or the beach. Teens who can tolerate the rowdiness might enjoy playing with water balloons or squirt guns to celebrate their birthday.
So, just think creatively and plan a celebration that matches your child’s interests and tolerance for excitement. And don’t forget to take pictures to capture memories of this unforgettable event. We welcome your input about the ins and outs of birthday parties. Share challenges and ideas based on your experiences or intuition. Just click on the comments button or send an e-mail to talk@FAQautism.com.
NOTE TO READERS AND LISTENERS: I am Cathy Knoll, a board certified music therapist and long-time friend of many folks with autism. At FAQautism.com we are committed to providing free, practical, everyday tips for making life better for people with autism. Feel free to send me an email with your thoughts or challenging situations or innovative solution. Send email to talk@FAQautism.com And don’t forget to check out our website for a wealth of ideas and a glimpse into the world of autism. http://FAQautism.com