Hello there! I am Ashley from PioneerMomma.com, and I am so excited to be able to guest post with Haleystar's blog at mommybloggerdirectory.com. A little about myself first, I am a mom and part time nurse who has decided to uproot our family for the simpler life in Alaska. I enjoy writing about our recipes, crafts, research, and pretty much anything to do with us moving towards self sufficiency in the Last Frontier. Feel free to stop by and chat with us, I love to hear all of your ideas and comments!
My son, nicknamed Bubba, is on the autism spectrum. Newly diagnosed, we have been wracking our brains and wearing out Google and the local library trying to look up everything we can to make his life easier. One of the biggest issues he faces, along with other children on the spectrum, is sensory overload in relation to big crowds and loud noises. Poor thing gets so frustrated and has an extremely high possibility of a nuclear meltdown. With his birthday and the holidays coming up, this is the first year we are taking a different approach. Hoping this year will be peaceful and easy going, I have come up with some pretty simple ideas to share on how to help your autistic child enjoy birthday and holiday parties. We have tried these throughout the year with much success, and I hope you find them as helpful as we did.
1. Keep it simple. Just because your child is on the spectrum or may have anxiety or other types of disorders doesn't mean that they shouldn't be able to enjoy their birthday or a holiday party as much as the next person. One of the things we have found that works for Bubba is keeping the party simple. By keeping the festivities and guest list to a minimum, there is less of a chance of sensory overload, and he is more likely to come out with a smile, rather than tears. We plan our parties to have three "time slots": Food, Game, and Cake or Completion. We let him know ahead of time what time slot is when, and for how long. This way, your child is less likely to worry about how long there is left or what is next or when they can leave altogether and go play with their Legos. It creates a separate focus for each slot, which also decreases overload. We like to stick to one favorite game rather than many different activities, so he can learn social skills at the same time as increasing attention and having a blast.
2. Prep ahead with reminders. A lot of times, children with anxiety or a tendency for sensory overload will get agitated in a change of routine. Try to plan your party during a "down time" period when it is less likely to interrupt your child's regular schedule. Also, a few days before the party, remind them that there will be a change on such and such day and why. This has helped immensely and Bubba has almost no stress when the day comes.
3. Maintain coping skills and "break" techniques. By reminding your child that their coping skills and break signals still hold true during parties and events, they will feel safer and more relaxed. Go over these techniques with your child prior to the guests arriving so they will know exactly what to do if they start to get upset. If your child is unable to communicate when he or she is escalating, use the skills yourself, as you would any other day. By keeping this routine the same, it provides some stability during a change in their normal routine.
4. Save presents for later. It has become social norm, nowadays, to open presents while everyone stands around taking pictures and eating cake. Often times, there are little "helper" hands trying to get to the unwrapped gifts, which could cause a rift. If you are having a full house, we like to save the present opening until after the party, when the house is quieter and your child can focus on one thing at a time. Remember to write down who gave what, and your child could draw or write thank you notes to send out.
5. Tailor to your child's interests and individual needs. One of the biggest things I have had to learn is how to take myself out of the "typical" frame of mind and remember to tailor activities and surroundings to Bubba's actual needs and interests, not what everyone else is doing. Whether it is a simple bundle of balloons or ending the party at a certain time, your family and friends should understand all you are doing to make your child comfortable. This year we are actually taking him to his favorite quiet restaurant, rather than having a big party. There is no use forcing him to have a birthday party because "that's just what kids do". If he is more comfortable having a sit down with our family, why not? And I won't even argue that I will enjoy the no cleanup aspect!
I hope these tips might help you in planning your get-together. I would love to hear any tips or advice anyone else has on this subject! Hope you all have a great day!