Credit: Jane Sandwood, Freelance Writer
Date: February 19, 2019
Research now shows that 1 in 59 children are diagnosed with Autism. With the long process of getting diagnosed and pursuing treatment, it’s important not to lose sight of the simple things in life that every child should enjoy. The typical children’s party can set off sensory issues and overwhelm kids on the spectrum, but that doesn’t have to be the case. With a little extra-careful planning and selection of an appropriate party theme, your kiddo can have a fun party celebration while staying comfortable in their surroundings.
A Circus Party – With a Twist
A party theme should be tailored to its guests, and for a child with autism, this likely means thinking of how you can tone down the usual noise associated with parties. This isn’t just due to a sensory issue itself, but can also be caused by hyperacusis; a hearing disorder that is common in people diagnosed with ASD. Common themes like “Circus” can get pretty rowdy, so why not do a theme with a low-noise twist? Combining the usual thrills of circus clowns with mimes is a fun way to continue the theme, while also bumping down the volume. Mimes act things out instead of speaking, so be sure to provide the theme on your invites and let people know it’s part of the fun – like charades! You can offer mime-style face painting, circus treat snacks, a big-top tent style decor, and even hire a mime performer. For instance, when things might still get a little overwhelming, having a pair or two of noise-cancelling headphones to use as needed can really help out.
Old McDonald Had a Farm – and So Can You
Rounding up circus animals isn’t likely, so if your child likes animals, consider a farm theme instead. Barnyard animals are usually pretty low-key and gentle, not to mention fairly quiet, which makes them great for people on the spectrum. They also don’t demand physical affection, but will happily accept it. So if children want to pet it, great! If not, they don’t mind that either, and won’t force it. You don’t even have to travel to an actual farm to have a day with Old McDonald; consider renting a couple of animals from a local petting zoo, many of which offer traveling services to bring them right to you. Having a celebration in a space that is familiar, like your backyard, can really help put a child with autism at ease. If you do want to have a party at a different location, try to introduce your child to it slowly, and well before the event. Take the time to have them visit the space beforehand, so they become more comfortably with the new area. You should also have plenty of seating and space to relax if a child is worked up- regardless of the theme.
Simple Summertime for Success
Sometimes the most successful party theme is a simple one that isn’t overthought. With that said, consider a simple theme of summertime. Renting a picnic house at a park is great for food and sit-down activities, plus with the nearby play area and open grassy areas, there’s plenty of space. Keeping things roomy can help prevent the buildup of noise, smells and other triggers. It also gives children lots of personal space, which is sometimes needed. Fun summertime foods, like watermelon balls and other picnic favorites are great additions. Blowing bubbles, drawing with sidewalk chalk, playing with various outdoor toys like frisbees; the options for a summer park themed party are bountiful.
Parties don’t have to be complicated, so focus on the most important aspect for your child and their guests and build the party around it. Themes for a autism-friendly party need to be a bit more creative and considerate of their sensitivities, but they can be every bit as fun.