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Autism Birthday Party Ideas: Plan A Sensory-Friendly Event

Planning an autism-friendly party can be a challenge, considering the sensory, communication, and social skills concerns that come with it. However, by letting your child guide you, you can throw a fun and memorable birthday...

Birthday child

Planning an autism-friendly party can be a challenge, considering the sensory, communication, and social skills concerns that come with it. However, by letting your child guide you, you can throw a fun and memorable birthday party that they will love. It's important to pay attention to what your child likes and feels comfortable with.

Location, Location, Location

Where you hold the party is crucial for creating a successful autism-friendly event. For many children with autism, routine and familiar places are essential for their comfort. If possible, consider hosting the party at home, where your child feels most at ease. Make sure to remove any toys or areas that your child may not be willing to share during the party.

If you decide to choose a different venue, opt for a place that your child is familiar with. It's not advisable to hold the party at a location they've never been to before. Some children's museums offer sensory-friendly areas and allow kids to explore at their own pace, providing a fun and exciting experience for everyone.

Another option is to hold the party at a relative's home, as long as it's a place where your child feels comfortable. Having a trusted family member who understands your child's challenges can provide support and make the celebration more enjoyable for your child.

Whether at home or elsewhere, practicing the party setup beforehand can help the event run smoothly. Use visual schedules with pictures to help your child understand what will happen and when.

Set Expectations For Guests Early

Birthday Party

It's essential to set guest expectations before the party, especially for individuals who may not be familiar with your child's needs. Allow family and friends to ask questions about autism and what to expect at a sensory-friendly event. Including helpful tips about sensory-friendly events and gift ideas in the invitation can reduce stress for everyone involved.

When it comes to gifts, consider asking guests to bring sensory-friendly options like books or calming toys. Alternatively, you can give them the option to purchase your child's favorite clothing items, as some autistic children prefer wearing the same clothes repeatedly. You may also choose to open gifts after the guests leave to avoid overwhelming your child.

Food Choices

Remember that the party is for your child, and their preferences should be prioritized, even when it comes to food. Some autistic children have sensory sensitivities, so make sure to serve sensory-friendly foods they enjoy. You can inform your guests in the invitation that the food will be limited or not provided.

If your child loves hot dogs, serve hot dogs. If they prefer pizza, serve pizza. The decision is entirely up to you and your child's preferences.

Kids eating pizza

Have that Birthday Party Outfit Ready

Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often feel more comfortable when they know what to expect, including their clothing. If your child is interested in wearing a special outfit for the party, order or buy it early and let them try it on beforehand to ensure their comfort. Keep in mind that textures can be challenging for children with autism, so it's important to consider their sensory needs.

However, if your child prefers to wear their everyday clothes, that's perfectly fine. Prioritize their comfort above all else.

Keep It Short

When planning a sensory-friendly event, it's easy to get overwhelmed with traditional obligations and others' expectations. Remember that this party is about your child and should not be a source of stress. Plan the party to be fun based on what your child enjoys, not what others may expect.

Many children's birthday parties are hours long, but if your child prefers a shorter celebration, keep it to an hour. Schedule events and display them in the invitation and at the party location to manage expectations. Your child doesn't require a long and event-filled party; they need a sensory-friendly event with simple themes, a structured schedule, and low-key activities.


Offer a Quiet Place

Even with careful planning, an autism-friendly party can sometimes become overwhelming for your child. Whether you're holding the party at home or elsewhere, create a designated "quiet zone" where your child can retreat if they feel overwhelmed. Include their favorite toys, activities, and calming tools in this space and make sure to inform your guests about it ahead of time.

We Can Help

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While we may not be able to plan your child's autism-friendly birthday party for you, we can help your child reach their full potential and enjoy social events more easily. At our locations in Illinois, Texas, and Wisconsin, we provide in-home and clinic-based ABA services tailored to your child's needs. Our goal is to offer the best clinically-proven ABA services to support your child's communication, social, and behavioral skills.

Contact us for more information.