Birthdays are such a special part of a family’s life, it’s a special occasion, a milestone marker of your child’s life that parents would want to celebrate every year.
However, when it comes to children on the spectrum, this can be quite a challenging scenario. They may display challenging behaviours, as they might not really know what is happening, and there may also be increased expectations of them that we adults may not realise.
Some examples of the possible challenges in a birthday party:
*Remember to see things from our children’s perspective, only then will we be able to break it down and make it successful!
Big grand birthdays may not be for every child on the spectrum, and birthdays need to celebrate your child with autism in the way they enjoy.
Is this a Preventative, Teaching or Reactive Strategy?
Building a child’s tolerance to birthdays is a Teaching Strategy.
1. Communicate expectations: while communicating the expectations for the birthday, gradually expose your child to the idea of birthdays.
a. Social Story and a simple Video Model
b. Little books on birthdays
c. Short cartoons of a birthday celebration
2. Practice: starting the birthday song and blowing the candle
a. Backward chaining method: sing just the last line of the birthday song. Child is only expected to sing one line of the song, and learn the expected behaviour to sit in front of the cake and then to blow the candle out.
b. Gradually build up the expectations-gradually increase to the full song, gradually start to bring more and more people in, with initially just one person singing softly, then a few more people sing softly, increasing the volume of the group gradually, and so on.
c. Once the birthday cake portion is complete, gradually add more and more to the birthday party schedule, example:
* Don’t forget to have a few “Free Play” and “Change” visuals as well, in case your child needs a break, or to communicate inevitable changes!
This is a basic rough schedule, and your family may want to do it totally differently. What is most important, is that you apply a proactive approach to setting your child up to be successful.
These steps may not be relevant to children who don’t struggle with any of these areas, so apply this accordingly to your child’s needs, and what works for your family!
1. Firstly, try to identify what the core challenges are when it comes to birthdays for your child. Here are some possibilities summarised below again:
2. Next, try to identify what type of birthday would be most successful for your child, here are some tips for you to help craft a successful birthday: