Event Planning for Autistics

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One of my new favorite pages on Facebook is Parenting Autistic Children with Love & Acceptance. There’s a lot of great information, but also, you get to ask questions and respond to questions. Since parenting autistic children is a passion for me, I have been getting into answering a lot now that I’m no longer working. It’s pretty awesome to be able to help parents, especially those early in their journey.

Today a question was posed about how autistic parents of autistic kids handle the socialization aspect of parenting. I have to admit, when my kids were toddlers, I was pretty terrible at it. Even after getting my diagnosis, I failed at forming the friendships needed to properly socialize my kids. It’s one of the primary reasons I’d never want to homeschool the kids. The likeliness is that I’d never do any of the coop stuff or the “homeschool” days at parks or museums or whatever. I just don’t do well with new people. And even people I do know, I still struggle to initiate.

But what I have been very successful with is planning parties. I love every aspect of planning a party. Event planning can be really fun if you like organization. Every year for the boys’ birthday, I plan a party, and now have gotten to using Pinterest to do so. (We used to do Halloween parties as well.) Next year’s theme? Video game party – No, I won’t do everything on that board. (Here’s a sample of what we ended up with for our Mario party in 2012.)

So why event planning?

It’s a perfect way to get social aspects into your household. There are some things I’ve learned over the years that make event planning the perfect way to be social. No one ever expects the hostess to socialize continuously. There’s food, and entertainment, and games. To do all of these, your attention is divided. Sure, there’re some “Super Moms” that can do it all at once, but everyone is usually really forgiving if you have to step away.

What are some things I put in place at all parties?

  • Sensory-free space! This is important. It may not be used, but it should ALWAYS be available. For yourself, for your guests, for your children.
  • A form of adult support. Sometimes this is your parent or a close friend. This person does socializing for you or helps with the kids to monitor energy/overwhelm levels. (I don’t encourage you to use your spouse, if you have one, for this. They should be keeping an eye on you.)
  • Always have a food portion and an activity. Food is a good break if everyone is getting a little overwhelmed (which especially happens with young children’s parties). Activities should not be forced on everyone. But is also a good distractor. I like arts and crafts type stuff, because kids get to take something home. (From the Pinterest board above for the next birthday party, I’m thinking of doing a lot of the visor things and have the shapes to do Mario, Sonic and Pokemon visors.)
  • Have the party for defined times AND encourage parents to stay. The latter part is more difficult as kids get older. But I just try to make it known that we prefer parents to stay with their kids.
  • Have the party on a Saturday. This is so Sunday can be used to recuperate. I don’t care if the party ends at 2pm. The next day is when the real relaxation happens.

While to most outside people, this will look like a regular party, you have put systems in that help you and your child control the environment. You have set up a routine, expectations and most importantly a place to calm down.

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