Family Gatherings and Parties

As we prepare for the next few weeks full of celebrations with family and friends, I thought this topic would maybe be helpful. These celebrations are such a fun time for most of us, but how will your child do?

A couple months ago, Marissa was invited to a birthday party. She LOVES birthday parties, mostly because they get to do fun things. This particular party was at a place that had lots of trampolines, a foam pit and a ninja course. She was so excited to be able to go, not to celebrate a birthday, but to have fun bouncing and jumping. It came time to open presents and have cake. “Cake” was a magic word and got her in the room (she loves cake), but after that she just wanted to keep playing. She didn’t want to be there to open presents. I watched as all the other girls from her class were crowded around the birthday girl as she opened up the gifts, so many giggles of excitement. This is where Marissa was…

Social settings are so difficult for Marissa and most on the autism spectrum. She has gotten good at finding a place to be by herself when there is too much commotion for her. To others, this may be rude, but to those of us with a child with autism, this is progress! She knew she needed to stay in the room or wasn’t able to play until the presents were opened and she found a way to make it work for her. She didn’t fight me on it. I was very proud of her this night.

Teresa and I attended an autism conference in Georgia this past February and during one session in particular, the speaker herself was autistic and I asked her about parties. How much do we push them? What do we ask them to participate in and allow them to back off on? Here is what she suggested:

Take small steps! Discuss a plan before the party with your child. If they have a hard time being in the room with a big crowd of people, how long can they last? Can they last five minutes? Great! During that five minutes assign a family member or friend to make conversation with them so they aren’t overwhelmed with the crowd of people. Then give them a place to go by themselves for a bit. Maybe they get a 10 minutes break, then come back out to the party and have another conversation, then another break. Gradually increase those times as they master them. I love that idea!

I have found when we have a big group of people (even family) over, Marissa will gravitate to her room or the basement where she can be alone and by the end of the night/party, people are asking where Marissa is. This is something we need to work on with Marissa over the next month with all the Christmas gatherings coming up.

So over the next month as you prepare for your celebrations, also prepare your child, so they can also enjoy the fun times, in their own way.

Marissa's Mom

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