Guest Post: Birthday Party Planning for Kids with DisabilitiesActivities, Parents — By Cindy on October 22, 2011 at 8:09 pm
By: Stephanie St. Martin
Johanna C. knows all too well the chaos and anxiety that come with back-to-school season. The mother of three active boys spends much of her time catering to their various needs: carting them to practices and after-school activities and helping them with their homework. But for her eldest, Jack, who suffers from dyspraxia, a motor-planning disorder that affects speech and motor skills, Johanna’s worries extend beyond the classroom.
Often times, parents become overwhelmed with the planning of a birthday party. The event planning is even more of a challenge especially if the celebrant is a child with special needs. For example, social situations present challenges for Jack that most parents don’t even think twice about. “People often plan birthday parties that have activities—arts and crafts, pick up soccer in the backyard, and the trend as of late—laser tag. Unfortunately, Jack becomes overwhelmed and often can’t participate in the fun.” Her suggestion is simple: plan an appropriate party for your special needs child and think appropriate inclusion when it comes to party planning.
3 Things to Consider for Your Special Needs Child
- How Do We Make This Work?: Rather than overwhelming my son at his party, Johanna needs to consider , ‘How do I make this work for my son and the guests?’ when planning the event. She usually chooses an activity that allows her son to interact with his friends, but make sure that it isn’t too demanding for him socially requiring constant engagement. This past year, she and her husband planned a movie outing and a trip to get ice cream. Jack was thrilled and happy and was able to “keep up with his friends”. To read up on the challenges that face children with certain disabilities and syndromes, read Care.com’s Caregiver Guide for Special Needs.
- Invite Receptive Guests: Johanna will call parents prior to sending out invitations. “I like to call parents first before sending out the invitations to let them know about the event. I want to make sure there will be guests attending before I send anything out.” By seeing if friends are available and families are receptive to the idea, Johanna knows that classmates will be able to celebrate with her son. “The worst thing would be to set a date and have nobody come.”
- Prepare the Guest of Honor: For children with special needs, it’s important for parents to prepare them for the party. Sit down with your child and review the guest list, what the activity is going to be and the location it will be held. “Reviewing the party’s activity also allows Jack to help set expectations. Since he has been to a movie before, he knows what to expect during the party itself.”
“Extra effort by other parents is always appreciated,” says Johanna. “Common courtesy goes a long way.”
Stephanie works at Care.com which is an online community that helps families find care. They dedicate a part of their service to helping those families who have children with special needs.