Going to parties when your child has additional needs

Yesterday, Lizzie from A Curious Journey gave us her top tips for planning a birthday celebration that suits your child’s needs. Today, it’s all about going to other children’s parties. Over to Lizzie…

So, receiving an invitation to another child’s party is another matter entirely. The pressure of a new environment and potentially new people can be too much for some children with additional needs. The immediate reaction is often to stop going to parties. However, my theory is that hiding away is not the solution. If my children are to survive in this world, they need to learn to cope and I have to help them do that. A little planning can go a long way.
Here are some of the ways we cope as a family:

1. Change expectations

This is one of the biggest changes we have to make as parents of children with additional needs. If you’re anything like me, it’s unlikely you’re going to be able to have a relaxing couple of hours chatting with other parents. Even if your child has left your side, we’re wired to be hyper-vigilant at all times. Face the fact that it may be more of a learning experience than a fun afternoon for the child.

2. Don’t expect them to join in everything

I’ve spent a number of parties, and other social gatherings, with one or both of the Bears playing in another room on their own to get away from the pressure of social interactions. As hard as it is for us parents to watch, they are usually fine and having a nicer time on their own playing with new toys than they would have trying to join in a game they don’t understand with the other children.

3. Jump ship if it gets too much

Don’t be afraid to leave early if it’s not working out or the child’s had enough after an hour. Some parties can get really noisy. Know when it’s time to thank the host and leave to avoid a full-on public meltdown.

4. Sensory activity

If your child is a sensory-seeker, consider carrying a sensory toy with you to keep them calm. Forgot to bring a toy? Try giving a tight hug, spinning them around or tickles.

5. Pack ear defenders or ear plugs

One of my most powerful weapons when it comes to noisy parties. These can be the difference between Big Bear running for the exit or dancing away the afternoon.

These strategies that we’ve put in place for the recent run of birthday parties have worked well this time. They are not fool-proof and, like any other times we can have bad days, but we will carry on persevering for as long as the Bears are happy and the parties continue.

Thanks again to Lizzie for her top tips. Check out her brilliant blog to read more about her adventures with her family. If you would like to share how your family deal with doing things differently when it comes to birthday celebrations, tweet us @weareMFON or email hello@myfamilyourneeds.co.uk and we’ll publish them!