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How to Throw a Birthday Party for a Child with Special Needs

Yes, you can throw a birthday bash for your child with special needs! Birthdays only come around once a year, so there’s pressure to get them just right. The most important thing is to involve your child in the planning process. Follow these expert tips for a successful birthday celebration.

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PhotoOp NYC

Birthdays only come around once a year, so there’s pressure to get them just right. Planning a party can be stressful, especially when you’re hosting, but think of it this way: A birthday is your chance to all-out celebrate your child and all the things he’s accomplished in the past year. And what better way to do that than surrounded by friends and family? The most important thing you can do to make sure things go smoothly—whether the party is at your home or at a play space or other venue—is to involve your child in the planning process, says Louise Weadock, RN, MPH, founder and CEO of WeeZee – The Science of Play in Chappaqua, a play, fitness, and learning center for kids of all abilities, ages newborn to 12. In other words: Don’t even think about throwing a surprise party. And allow him to choose the activities for the day. “Control and expectation are big issues for many kids,” Weadock says. “The more they have control over their environment, the more likely they’ll be happy and comfortable in it.” Weadock offers these additional tips for throwing a party you’ll all enjoy:

  • Make sure your child gets 12 hours of sleep the night before the party.
  • Keep the party small. A lower number of guests will make it more manageable, freeing you to give one-on-one attention if necessary.
  • Stagger guest arrivals, to ease your child into the party. Having one or two friends arrive early can help to ease kids with social anxieties into the larger social event.
  • Provide a place for your child to de-stimulate during the party.
  • Have realistic expectations. Your child may not want to participate in every activity at the party. Plan a variety of activities that your child might like—using his input, if possible—and let him choose what to participate in the day of the party.
  • Ask for help, if you need it. More chaperones are always a good idea, as long as they’re briefed on your child’s special needs and that of any other guests at the party and how to respond to specific situations.