Birthday parties and autism can be a good and/or bad mix depending on the person and setup.My autistic daughter has always loved the birthday parties she has had and she usually does well at the ones she attends.
I on the other hand, always wanted parties as a kid but had meltdowns because they weren’t exactly how I planned and people didn’t do things the way I thought they should. I don’t have many childhood memories and most that I have are bad. What I do remember about my parties was that they seemed to be a failure. Hopefully, the people who attended enjoyed them at least!I like making Micah happy with her birthday parties but it is very stressful for me. Planning and organizing are hard enough but what is hardest for me is interacting with kids I don’t know well and their parents.
When Micah was younger we invited very few kids to the party and I had someone help me. Depending on what she has wanted to do and whether we could afford it we went out to have the party. One year, it was at the pool where she had her swimming lessons. She invited her whole learning centre from school that year so there were about 20 kids from grades 2-4.That wasn’t too bad because her therapist was there with another boy so she assisted me and there was also a lifeguard.
The other away from home party was at a circus school so there weren’t too many kids invited but it was still stressful making sure everyone could wait their turn etc. One of the parents stayed to help his daughter.When Micah started school, we had to start having her party before school ended in June since her birthday is around the August long weekend and many people are away.
I don’t know how Micah has been able to handle all of the sensory overload and excitement of parties but maybe it is because we are more careful especially when she was younger with putting limits on numbers of children, activities and, time.This year’s party was very anxiety provoking for me. Micah wanted to have a mystery party and play a live version of the Clue game. It seemed like a great idea. She wanted to invite her class- 5 kids, some old friends, and some new friends from various places. A total of thirteen kids were invited and all but one came. There was a large range of ages (9-16) and abilities. I was worried about whether everyone would be able to participate in the game but we figured out groups so enemies were separated and those who needed more support were with those who didn’t.
I realized the morning of the party that I didn’t have games prepared for while the kids were arriving and waiting for their pizzas (build your own!) to cook. Not good when most of the kids were autistic and would have sensory overload and anxiety. We had to come up with something quickly.I found some games on the internet that we ended up playing at the end of the party.
I had a friend helping which was good because I struggle with talking to the kids. She took any kids who wanted to run around and jump on the trampoline out the back while I got pizza fixings ready and cooked the pizzas.There were the usual arguments but things went well.
After pizza, we explained the game and got the kids into groups. Things went okay but it probably would have been more successful with just the older kids as most of the younger kids didn’t understand the game.I had thought to put out some sensory toys for if someone needed quiet time but forgot to tell the group and I don’t think most of the kids were used to that being available, especially at a party. The toys were used but as weapons mainly! Rody, the bounce horse got a work out bouncing on the little indoor trampoline. That was fine as that was obviously what that child needed to regulate at that time.
All of the chaos of kids running around, the noise, the mess, and not knowing what to say and what to expect from them caused me to have severe anxiety but I couldn’t hide and have a meltdown.I couldn’t stim- can’t let anyone see the strange things I do. It’s not appropriate, ladylike- any phrase you have been told can fit in here! What I needed to do was hit my legs, hit my head (not hard enough to do damage- don’t worry), flap, bang my head on the wall (again not to do damage but to make the bad feelings go). Those are things I needed to do to help bring the anxiety down but I had to hold them in- to be normal so that by the end of the party I just wanted to sleep.
Micah had fun at her party but it was a little too ‘wild’ for her (and me!)with all of the kids, especially her classmates overstimulated. Next year, we may have two parties- a class party and another with a few other friends. Things might go a little smoother.I survived this year and we have a year to figure out the next birthday celebration!