Wednesday, 27 May 2015

How to have an Autism Friendly Birthday Party...

This month was DS's birthday!
I love the time of year of his birthday  - May is such a beautiful month and brings the promise of Spring.
My own birthday is exactly 3 weeks after Christmas and if I'm honest, I've never particularly enjoyed it.
The weather is cold, bitter and often frosty or icy. For many birthdays, I've been full of cold and everyone is skint after Christmas and New Year.
I remember many a birthday walking home from school with a scarf wrapped around my face and it going dark. It's become something of a running joke between me and my Mum of me asking 'why on earth did you choose to have a baby in January'? She gives me a different humorous reply everytime I ask her! :)

So with all this in mind, I was determined that when I come to have a baby of my own that he/she would be born during a nice time of the year.

So DS was born during May. I had aimed for May/June so was very happy with that.
It means that his birthday is usually a sunny day and warm enough to play outside with at least one of his presents being an outside or garden toy :)

This year I decided to try something different. I decided to host a birthday party at home but not just any party. This was going to be an autism/DS friendly party.

So I got to work with booking a huge garden bouncy castle, I ordered several food platters, balloons and bought the cake.........and didn't invite any children.

That's right.

No children.

It was a child-free birthday party.

Reason: Well DS is noise sensitive and struggles to tolerate crowds. Children of course produce noise. Screaming, shouting, laughter, squeals etc. All stuff that must feel like nails on a chalkboard to him :(

Another thing is that the only children that DS knows are his classmates and in DS's mind, they belong to school only and certainly not in his home.
You see to him, people have their place. There are clear lines to where people belong.
For example, Mum belongs at home, teacher and children belong to school.
He does not expect to go into school one day and for me to teach him just as much as he doesn't expect to come home to his teacher having tea in our house or the children running around his garden!
So classmates are a no too.

Instead the guest list consist of just a few of his favourite adult family members and he loved every minute of it.

The only child that did attend was my partner's son C who is a similar age to DS.

C has pretty much grown up with DS and has been around him for a good number of years now. He has a good understanding of him, knows when to interact with him and knows when he is best just getting out of his way! DS enjoys seeing him and seemed pleased when C arrived with his Dad :)

The day was sunny and went tremendously well! :)

A few days before the party, I bought the birthday cake but as I was unloading the shopping from the car (with the cake) DS spotted it and wanted it there and then.
I gave it to him and he did this........who said that you have to eat your birthday cake to enjoy it eh? :) :)

He peeled off the icing and then squished the sponge through his fingers like play-doh.
The sensory enjoyment he was getting out of it was lovely to watch and I let him play with it to his little heart's delight :)

So for the party, I bought another cake and expected him to do the same thing (which would of been absolutely fine) but he didn't.

So this party wasn't your usual children's birthday party but that doesn't matter.
What does matter was that it was enjoyable to DS and he was the key focus here.

We are not a 'normal' family and to be honest, I wouldn't want us to be.
DS had an awesome time at his party and a fab sensory experience squishing and squashing his birthday cake. It was his cake so he was free to do with it as he wished :)

Would I do it again? Definitely! All our parties are going to be like this now obviously depending on DS's needs.

But also, myself and the family thoroughly enjoyed it too. I was relaxed and happy as I knew that my Superstar boy was.

My tips for organising an Autism Friendly party are:

*First off, shake your head of any thoughts of a conventional birthday party or what a child's birthday party 'should look like'. Model your party to whatever your child will enjoy even if it means that it looks nothing like a party! It doesn't matter but your child enjoying the day and experiencing their birthday day being fab is!

*Shape the day to the needs of the child (as much as possible) including food, guests etc..

*Create a room or corner for the child to go and have a break or chill out if needed. Make sure siblings know that is a no go area even if it's just for today.

*Only invite family members that the child has a good relationship with. I have no family members that unintentionally tease or wind DS up. If I did then I simply wouldn't of invited them.

*Accept offers of help. I didn't faff with making sandwiches and popping mini sausage rolls in the oven. I ordered several party platters so I could relax and spend time talking to DS about who was coming and what would be happening. If you decide not to do this option then accept offers of help from family and friends to get things ready.

*Relax. Our children are like emotional sponges. They soak up any emotion we are experiencing or feeling. So if Mum is stressed and anxious then it's likely Junior is going to pick up on it and get stressed and anxious. Stay cool, calm and collected then so will our little birthday boy/girl :)

*After the party, make sure the rest of the day and evening is very low key and stimuli.
Your child is likely to have taken on a lot during the party and may be grateful of having a low noise and stimulation rest of the day. After DS's party we kept the TV and radio off and made sure we kept our voices lowish.

*Lastly, enjoy! Enjoy the day celebrating and playing with your child. As DS is my only child, I mentally mark the day of having been a Mum for X amount of years. It's a lovely feeling.

Hope this gives you some ideas or food for thought when planning and organising your own little Superstar's birthday parties :)

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