We Give our Children Space to be - Mindstretch School for children with mild to moderate learning challenges, including autism
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Successful Parties for Special Needs Children

Everyone wants a great party for their child. The stakes can feel especially high for the child with special needs. We think about this in designing events like our recent Family Valentine’s Day Picnic and Social.

Following our TIPS will help you ensure successful parties for children with special needs.

12 Tips for a Successful Party

Make It MANAGEABLE. Go for shorter parties, and review the plan with your child in advance. A ‘visual schedule’ using pictures to show the activities and the order in which they occur can help.

  • See our article Sensory Overload to learn more about visual schedules and how to avoid overload.

Include ENTERTAINMENT. Select a theme and activity that your child likes. A clown, balloon making, a jumping castle, or a magician? For smaller parties, consider one activity that helps keep the children focused as a group

Give SPACE. If possible, give the  children space to move and spend excess energy. Hold the party in a space your child knows, or at least introduce them to the space beforehand.

Go PHYSICAL. Begin a party for younger children with physical activity. Outdoor games followed by a quiet time with a film works well. Be aware of any physical limitations.

Ensure a QUIET SPOT. A larger, outdoor area can help those who prefer to keep to the side, choosing when to engage. If the party is indoors, set up a quiet area. Maybe add a softly lit corner with cuddly blankets and ear-muffling hats (for if the noise gets too much).

Allow CHOICE. Some children with sensory issues do not like to get messy or feel certain textures, but they like building or creating. Others may want to play. If possible, give a choice and don’t force anything.

Manage the GUEST LIST. Include friends who understand that our children can get overwhelmed and sometimes need time out. Have an adult supervise, but also give the children space.

Have a PLAN. Children have different sensory profiles and so be aware of any likely trigger, be it high noise, unexpected touch, a closed area, etc. Have a plan of action for if a child becomes overwhelmed.

Give Good FOOD. Ask guests about any food sensitivities in advance. Beware of too much sugar, and put out carrot sticks, fruit bits and simple popcorn before cake or sweets come out. Offer food only after any physical activity. This is because a child with a full stomach and low muscle tone can have a problem if they suddenly get active.  

Manage GIFT GIVING. Some children don’t like being the centre of attention and the ‘performance’ of opening gifts. In this case, set aside any presents for later, or perhaps request something charitable ― a book donated to a less fortunate school or a tin for a food pantry. Of course, if your child loves opening presents, go for it!

Limit SOUND. Singing ‘Happy Birthday’ around a cake can be too much for some children. In this case, you might like to practice it before the event, or leave it out. In general, it’s best to avoid loud sounds.

Alert Your HOST. The same kind of considerations are relevant if a child with special needs attends another party. Alert host parents so that they will understand if your child needs to disengage for a while, or becomes upset. Perhaps arrive early to the event, to familiarise your child with the environment. Be ready to leave at the first sign of sensory overload.

Capture Your Parties, Successfully

Roxanne is the photographer for Mindstretch events. See our article on Great Child Photography. Find Roxanne on Facebook @RKotzePhotography

Face Paint, a Treat

The presence of our face paint artist always sets a smile on little faces. Taahira has 10+ years experience, her work is brilliant, and she’s great with children. Contact her by email, phone or WhatsApp:

Successful Parties for Special Needs Children because Every Child Deserves Fun and Inclusion!

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