PREPARING FOR PARTIES WHEN YOUR CHILD HAS ASD
Parties…we’ve not been able to throw them for quite some time, and once lockdown restrictions are lifted even further; we’ll start to see families and friends coming together to celebrate everything from weddings to, well, just being able to see each other and hug each other.
Many of us will take this for granted, for but children with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) it’s rarely as simple as sending out some invites and ordering a cake.
Children with autism can be used to routine and are likely to be hypersensitive to noise, taste, touch, smell or bright lights, the chaos of a social event can be stressful and overwhelming for them – but you don’t want them to miss out, and why should they?
There is a vast scope in the sensory stimulus for children with autism, making it difficult to know how they will cope in certain situations so it’s essential to ensure they are prepared and as comfortable as possible.
Which leads to the question: how can a social event be made autism friendly?
The simple answer is, it’s all in the planning.
HOSTING A BIRTHDAY PARTY FOR YOUR CHILD
Spend time with your child, preparing them for the event and explain what will happen (as best you can) and if there will be people they’re not familiar with it can be helpful to show them pictures to help them recognise people outside of their regular circle.
Try to create a visual timeline that you can pin up a few days ahead of the event so your child knows what to expect – include details of arrival times, when the food will be served etc.
As with all the best plans, things can go awry on the day, so think ahead to what your child might be affected by and consider options to help them cope without causing any additional stress.
MAKE YOUR OWN RULES!
Is there a safe space you can transform into a quiet room where they can escape and seek sanctuary?
Will there be loud music, would ear defenders help?
First thing here is don’t just assume your child will want a party with all the trimmings. It’s fine if they don’t – maybe just take them to their favourite park or for a quiet family meal.
Communication is key, if they do want a party then you need to guide them through what they want and what you can include.
If your child doesn’t like cake then don’t have cake, you don’t need loud music if they won’t enjoy it.
You don’t need to invite everyone in class, their party is about them and the last thing you want is for them to suffer through it. If it’s the first time you’re considering a party then start small, just one friend and close family members and any pets of course!
If this goes well, they will want more parties and you can start extending their social circle ready for that.
GOING TO A FRIEND’S PARTY
It’s much easier to control things when you’re the host but your child will be invited to others’ parties and if they want to go then you need to do all you can to make it an enjoyable experience.
First of all, speak to the parents of the birthday child and get as much detail from them about the party so you can go through the plan of the day with your child in advance.
If you feel like you will need to stay with them then explain this as well.
Consider visiting the location ahead of time and plan for a quiet place to go if your child begins to feel overwhelmed and/or over stimulated.
All the best parties have games so think ahead and teach your little one the rules and how to play. It can also be useful to create a story to show that the rules are there to make things fair and help limit the chances of a child becoming overly competitive.
By doing this in a story format they will be more likely to relate and understand.
On the day of the party, perhaps arrange to arrive a few minutes early to help your child acclimatise and to see how they react to the environment and the excitement.
Take any calming toys with you (stress balls, computer game, and headphones) just in case and plan to go outside for a walk if they become upset and decide with them whether to go back in or go home.
Don’t be afraid to leave early. A short good time is much better than a longer day and leaving after a meltdown. Have a treat or surprise planned for your child so they aren’t too disappointed at leaving before everyone else.
Of course, another choice is simply not go to the party until you can be sure you your child is ready for the experience. Every child is different, and only you can know what will be best for your child.
ASK FOR HELP
Here at Dr Dave’s Entertainment we are autism champions and Jayne is Makaton trained to level 2.
We regularly plan and manage events and advise on parties and celebrations to include all children and young people of all ages and abilities.
Our son, Harry has ASD so we share the challenges, the concerns and the joy with you.
If you need some extra support ahead of an event then contact us by visiting www.drdavesentertainments.co.uk or or by calling us on 07905723864