Cordially invited or not: which category your child belongs?
Today’s blog addresses a hard-hitting topic that has been among the most talked-about issues in special needs parent support groups. It’s about birthday parties and the challenges that parents of special needs children face when it comes to social gatherings.
Many parents of special needs children feel pity and guilt because they perceive that their children are left out of social gatherings, including birthday parties. However, the truth is that with some adjustments, it’s possible to ensure that special needs children can be a part of these social events.
In today’s blog, you will find a unique take on this topic. The article will discuss the do’s and don’ts for hosts when inviting special needs children to a birthday party. Additionally, the blog post will explore the role of parents of special needs children when they attend such events. Finally, the article will touch on a crucial issue, which is when a special needs child is never invited anywhere. Sharing with you all 6 Golden tips for each of these!!
If you’re a parent of a special needs child, you might be wondering if your child is cordially invited to such events?
So, don’t miss out on my today’s blog which provides valuable insights and Golden tips on how to make birthday parties and social gatherings inclusive for special needs children.
So lets, read the blog and find out.. are you cordially invited or not?
Every child deserves to feel included, loved, and celebrated, especially on their birthdays. A birthday party is a joyous occasion that every child looks forward to attending. It’s an event filled with fun, laughter,yummy food, gifts and games. However, for a child with special needs for example- Autism, a birthday party can be a challenging experience. That’s why it’s crucial for parents and other neurotypical kids to understand their role in making a child with Autism feel comfortable and included.
The issue of special needs children not being included in social gatherings, like birthday parties, can be a source of distress for parents and children alike. By providing guidance on how to include special needs children in such events, you can help to create a more inclusive and supportive community.
It’s important to acknowledge the challenges that parents of special needs children face when it comes to social gatherings. These parents may feel isolated and excluded, and their children may miss out on important opportunities to socialize and make friends.
My today’s blog can provide helpful tips and advice on how to overcome these challenges, such as by communicating with the host about any special accommodations that may be needed or by preparing your child ahead of time for what to expect at the event.
Additionally, addressing the issue of special needs children never being invited to social gatherings is crucial. This can be a heartbreaking reality for some families, and it’s important to raise awareness and advocate for more inclusive attitudes and behaviors. So, its my humble attempt to promote understanding and empathy towards special needs children and their families by providing a valuable resource for parents and hosts alike. By providing practical advice and raising awareness of the challenges faced by special needs families.
● Role of Neurotypical kids and their parents [Host]
Here are some golden tips to atleast help neurotypical kids and their parents create a welcoming environment for a child with Autism at a party:
Golden tip 1- Educate yourself and your child:
Autism is a complex condition, and every child with Autism has unique challenges. Before the d- day, take some time to educate yourself and your child about Autism. Explain how the child with Autism may behave differently, or may feel uncomfortable, may run here and there, touch almost everything including the birthday kids’ presents and cake. So, provide tips on how to interact with them. It’s important to remind neurotypical kids to be kind, patient, and accepting of other little different children as well. Parents can refer to MySuperSaathi Yuvi and his friends Autism awareness comic strips to show their children as they are made for the kids to learn about neurodivergence. Visit https://specialsaathi.com/services/mysupersaathi/
Golden tip 2-Consider sensory needs:
Children with Autism can have sensory processing issues, which can make certain stimuli overwhelming. To make the party more comfortable here are some checklists –
A.) check if the party isn’t arranged at a hot, sunny, open space especially in summers;
B.) Or in a very closed suffocating space.
C.)Do not forget to keep the music at a low volume as they all are kids after all.
D.) Avoid using flashing lights and repetitive requests for posing the camera.
E.)If possible, create a quiet space, ballpools, bean bags, squishy balls, pop- it, small waterbodies, art and craft area, for the child to retreat to if they become overwhelmed and other kids could also enjoy these.
F.) Some home- made food alongwith the normal party snacks
Golden tip 3-Plan some structured and predictable activities:
Children with Autism thrive on routine and structure, so it’s essential to have a clear plan for the party. Plan some structured activities that the child with Autism can also participate in and be a part of if not all but atleast some of the fun stuff, such as games, art or crafts, pottery. Be sure to message them and flow of the event to the kids parents beforehand. Moreover, do explain the rules and expectations clearly once again before starting.
Golden tip 4- Assign a buddy:
Assigning a buddy to the child can be really helpful. This can be a neurotypical child of relatively elder age- group or a parent or relative even the househelp who can provide support and guidance throughout the party. Encourage the buddy to engage with the child with Autism in a friendly and positive way.
Golden tip 5 -Be patient and flexible:
Every child with Autism is different, and some may need more support than others. Be patient and flexible, and don’t expect that child to participate in every activity, or performin the same way as his or her peers. So, encourage them to participate, but don’t force them if they are uncomfortable or unwilling.
Golden tip 6- Involve the parents: Finally, involve the parents of the special child in the planning process, if required. Ask for their input on what activities their child enjoys and what support they may need. This will help ensure that that child feels included and comfortable at the party.
Including a child with Autism in a birthday party can be a wonderful experience for everyone involved. By educating yourself and your child, considering sensory needs, planning structured activities, assigning a buddy, being patient and flexible, and involving the parents, you can help create a welcoming environment that is inclusive of all children, including those with Autism.
● Role of parents of a special needs child [attendee]
Now, when it comes to children with special needs and their parents, it is important to consider their unique needs and challenges. Parents of special needs children often face additional responsibilities and challenges in social situations such as attending birthday parties (beyond imagination actually). Now, I will discuss the role of parents of a special needs child while they have been invited to a birthday party. Here are some golden tips again –
Golden tip 1- Clear Communication with the host:
The first and foremost thing parents of special needs children should do is clearly communicate with the host of the birthday party regarding every minute details. Let the host know about your child’s special needs, challenges, any allergies, or sensory sensitivities your child may have, and what accommodations your child may need to feel comfortable and included. This will help the host to plan the party accordingly.
Golden tip 2-Prepare your child:
Before the party, parents should prepare their child for what to expect. Prepare social stories, show them the YouTube videos, show them from their books. Talk to your child about the party, who will be there, what activities will be happening, and how long the party will last. This will help your child to feel more comfortable and less anxious about the event.
Golden tip 3- Bring necessary items:
Parents of special needs children should bring various necessary items their child may need to feel comfortable and included in the party. This could include special foods or snacks, sensory toys, reinforcers or communication devices. Most importantly- Download some mobile games or kid’s favorite YouTube videos and arrange them in a quick Playlist in case, internet doesn’t work, this is to execute plan z ;))
Be sure to communicate with the host about any items you plan to bring or may require there, so they can plan accordingly. [ do carry all the essential items, for worst case scenario, it means even, if your child has a habit of going toilet on a certain kind of potty seat, then do carry it in a separate bag.]
Golden tip 4- Monitor your child:
Parents should monitor their child and keep a vigil on them during the party while enjoying themselves and be prepared to step in if their child needs help or support.
Keep an eye on your child’s behavior and emotions, and be prepared to provide comfort, coregulate or redirect behavior if necessary.
Vigilance is also necessary as our kids lack sense of danger. So, wires around the dance floor, loose plugs in connections, uneven surfaces on the ground, sharp end of tables, knife, tooth-picks etc these are some of the common dangers which may be a cause of unwanted accidents; so keeping an eye on your child may reduce these risks.
Golden tip 5- Encourage social interaction:
Encourage your child to interact with other children at the party, but also be respectful of your child’s boundaries. Some special needs children may feel more comfortable interacting with adults or playing alone or just exploringand running around. So, don’t force your child to participate in activities they are uncomfortable with. Modeling the way how you want them to interact can be just enough. Refer to my previous blog on Speech and Language development “Every kid deserves a voice ” Tip no.9 -Be your kids voice. Read it here https://specialsaathi.com/2023/04/24/every-kid-deserves-a-voice/
Golden tip 6- Be prepared to reach and leave early:
If your child becomes overwhelmed or overstimulated, so try to reach on the exact given time as the chances of more number of people reaching at that time is less. So, it helps in initial settling of your child. They can explore and roam around easily. Noises and chaos is little less for them at that time, so understanding of that social situation, interaction and adaptation would be easier for them. They would further enjoy and participate more after gaining initial confidence and trust in the environment and people around.
Moreover, be prepared to leave the party early. Try going to the parties with a small time frame in hand when taking your child for the first few times in a social gathering. Like, taking them initially for 15- 20 minutes. And then gradually increasing it for more depending upon your child’s interest and ability to adapt in such social situations. If the child seems to enjoy such parties to the core then you may take them for hours. However, make sure to leave as soon as the first symptoms of tiredness or unwanted behaviors seems to reflect in your child, don’t extend the time there further.
Also, have an exit strategy in place, and communicate with the host if you need to leave early. Pre- downloaded cab Apps, pick and drop, plan everything for your exit strategy beforehand. Most importantly, prepare your child for this also, as sudden exit from the entertaining place may cause displeasure in them.
So, its very very crucial for the parents of special needs children to have an important role to play in ensuring their child feels comfortable and included in birthday parties. Prior communication with the host, necessary preparation, monitoring, danger awareness and encouraging social interaction, set time frame, exit strategy are all key factors to consider. By following these tips, parents can help their child have a positive and enjoyable experience at a birthday party.
● If Never been invited
However, if you are a parent of a special needs child and your child has never been invited to birthday parties, it can be challenging and heart-wrenching. As a parent, it is natural to worry about your child’s social skills, self-esteem, and overall well-being. But, the good news is, there are things you can do to help your child feel included and valued. Now, let’s explore some of the strategies that parents of special needs children can use if their child has never been invited to birthday parties or any social gatherings.
Golden tip 1. Talk to the Teachers and Other Parents in school and in society :
One of the first steps to take is to talk to your child’s teachers and other parents in school or in your society where you live in. It may be that your child has not been invited to birthday parties because other parents are not aware of their special needs and just consider them not social enough or perhaps consider them as a tantrum freak child.
Hence, talking to teachers and other parents can help you to raise awareness about your child’s needs and encourage them to be more inclusive. You can also ask the teachers and other parents to help you organize a birthday party for your child, which can be a great way to help your child feel included and valued.
Golden tip 2. Organize a Birthday Party/ies:
If your child has never been invited to a birthday party, why not organize one for them? Or maybe lots of birthday parties for them? You can celebrate the whole birthday week or how about the birthday month with small and big celebrations and gatherings. You can choose a theme that your child enjoys by seeing their interests in particular area or their favorite cartoon characters theme, and invite their classmates and other friends to celebrate with them. You can also ask for help from other parents or family members to make the party a success.
By organizing a birthday party/ies for your child, you are showing them that they are loved and valued, and you are also giving them the opportunity to interact with other children in a safe and comfortable environment.
You may visit temples, orphanage, old age home, assisted living centers, special schools, your child’s therapy centers, art classes, swimming classes and celebrate in many other different and unique ways.
You can also take it in a positive way, that out of atleast 20 children that you might have invited for your child’s birthday celebration, even if 5 of them invites your child back then it’s a win- win situation too.
Moreover, try becoming a child yourself. If you’re not in habit of celebrating your birthdays then can start doing it now atleast for your child. Both parents can celebrate their birthdays with some friends and families invited for a party or a small get together. Celebrate family member’s birthdays, celebrate your pet’s or your kid’s soft- toys’ birthdays, or may be birthday of your househelp or her child; birthday of your driver, security guard. There are number of ways to celebrate and create happy moments for your child. And we need not to spend thousands of rupees on that, even a small homemade mug cake and snacks would suffice the purpose.
Golden tip 3. Join Support Groups:
There are many support groups for parents of special needs children. Joining a support group can be a great way to connect with other parents who are facing similar challenges. You can share your experiences, get advice, and find resources that can help you to support your child. Support groups can also be a great way to find out about activities, social gatherings and events that are tailored for special needs children. Make friends there and voila you are good to go.
Golden tip 4. Create Opportunities for Social Interaction:
Creating opportunities for social interaction anywhere right from grocery shop to their different classes can help your child to build their social skills and self-esteem. You can organize playdates with other children, enroll your child in sports or other activities, help them interact with other kids while taking them to therapies or in school, or even join a social skills group. By creating opportunities for social interaction, you are helping your child to develop friendships and build a support network.
Golden tip 5. Pretend play Birthdays:
As mentioned in point number 2, in the same manner, during your kid’s playtime or playdates we can find plenty of moments and pretend play toys to support the imaginative/pretend play. One can make birthday cakes with the help of Claydough or even dough in the kitchen. Some plastic toys also come in the shape of cakes, their different toppings, candles, cutter. Wrap up some small presents with gift wraps and you are done for a pretend play Birthday Party!!
Golden tip 6. Be Patient and Encouraging:
Finally, it is essential to be patient and encouraging with your child especially in the social setting as the anxiety level of our kids is already on peak during such situations. Building friendships and social skills can take time, and it may not happen overnight. However, by being patient and encouraging, you are showing your child that you believe in them and that you are there to support them. Celebrate small successes, and be there to pick your child up if they experience setbacks.
So, if your special needs child has never been invited to birthday parties, it can be challenging, but it is not hopeless. By talking to teachers and other parents, organizing a birthday party, joining support groups, creating opportunities for social interaction, and being patient and encouraging, you can help your child feel included, loved, and celebrated. Remember, every child deserves to feel valued and cherished, and as a parent, you have the power to make that happen.
So, concluding my today’s blog here and hoping that you celebrate with a little party with your child and their friends after done reading my blog. Hope you enjoyed and got plenty of golden tips and ideas.
Do not forget to provide your valuable feedback and do share this blog with other parents in a hope they pick some amazing tips from here and are cordially invited sometime soon.
Founder SpecialSaathi ; a serious party lover but seldom being invited 🙁
Creative representation for this blog is done by our extremely talented CreativeSaathi associate Nikhil Thotam