Organizing an Inclusive Birthday Party

Birthday parties can create fear in many parents. All the excitement, noise and sugar at the start, followed by tears and tantrums at the end. Not to mention all the expensive, catering and planning that’s involved.

But one aspect of the planning that parents shouldn’t worry over is the invite list. Should you invite the child in the class with special needs? The simple answer is, yes. Having children with special needs at the party may require a bit of extra preparation, but it shouldn’t mean they miss out on an invite.

Not invited

For parents of children with special needs, knowing there’s a party on the horizon can cause dread for them too. But for very different reasons. Social media has been buzzing with examples of disabled and special needs children not being invited to birthday parties. And in some cases, they are the only child in the class without an invite.

In response, blog posts have popped up across the internet from special needs parents urging people to include their children. One mother wrote an open letter on Facebook to the parents of her son’s classmate. They didn’t invite him to their party, because, she believes, he has Down Syndrome.

Social exclusion �” the new bullying?

According to the Institute of Social Exclusion, bullying has changed from playground teasing to being excluded from activities. Both types of bullying can have the same emotional impact on the individual.

But not all exclusion is about party invitations or games in the playground. Many parents say their special needs children are being excluded from relatives’ homes because of behaviors associated with their child’s disability. Some children are excluded because they’re simply ignored by relatives or family members won’t make necessary accessibility changes to their property.

Social inclusion increases health and wellbeing

In a report by the UK’s University of Birmingham, engaging in play and leisure activities outside the home can help improve psychological wellbeing and physical health. It can also contribute towards positive social interactions and relationships. The report’s message highlights that whilst disabled children and their families face some barriers to social inclusion, disabled children have just the same needs as other children.

Plan ahead for a fun, inclusive party

To make your child’s next birthday party inclusive, it just needs a bit of extra planning. By thinking carefully about a few details, it’s possible for everyone to enjoy themselves.

Here are some tips to help you create a birthday party that includes everyone.

Don’t be afraid to speak to parents of children with special needs if you are uncertain about what their child may require.

  • Think about how accessible your house is or the venue that you will be having the party at. Could a wheelchair get through easily if required?
  • Think about what activities will suit your guests. From simple craft activities, singing and dancing and organized sports, to board games and Lego. Parties can be quite chaotic and confusing.
  • The more you can explain to the children about what is going to happen and when the better. That way they will know what to expect.
  • Some children can find the moment when everyone sings the happy birthday song incredibly overwhelming. A brief activity in another room could be a good distraction and ensure there’s minimal distress.
  • Organize different zones that each have a variety of sensory activities available for all the children. All children will enjoy this, not just special needs children.
  • Many children have dietary needs, so make sure you know what the children can and cannot eat ahead of time.

All it takes is a little extra organization and thought, and your child’s next birthday party can be a wonderful occasion that all their friends can enjoy.