Birthday parties and get-togethers can be super overwhelming for neurodivergent individuals, especially children. The loud noises, social expectations, different foods, social expectations, etc, can just be too much! Parents, caregivers, and kids can work together to make these get-togethers safer and less overwhelming. Here are some considerations for planning you event, but the best information comes from the person that you are looking to support.
First off, consider the guest list. Too many people can be too many voices, crowding and overwhelm of social expectation. Can you cut it down?
Next, think about food. Can you ask the guest(s) in mind (or their parents) what their favorite foods are and offer them? Is there away to take pressure off the meal, like a casual buffet instead of a long sit-down.
Also, music! Is it going to be too much if the guest(s) are hypersensitive to sound? Can you make it quieter, just in one location or none at all?
Another consideration is creating a safe place. Can you have one room that has has minimal sensory stimuli? A darker room, a fort, some sensory toys (soft pillows, light-up wands).
If there are going to be presents, think about how this will impact everyone. Opening gifts in front of everyone can be a lot, both for the one opening presents and for the ones watching.
Lastly, when you are considering games, think about how you can be inclusive. Can you have a few different activities at the same time so there can be choices? Maybe a craft in one room, and the piñata in another? Integrating heavy work games can also be something that can be regulating for all kids! Can you do animal races (each kid pretending to be a different animal like frog jumps, walking like a dog)?
These small adjustments and proactive conversations when planning a get-together, can make a huge difference! I hope that this article has been helpful for you and your autistic loved ones. We are all unique individuals with different needs, but there are many things we can do to make our world more inclusive for everyone!