Welcome to The Cherry On Top.
I hosted another party for my son and a couple of his friends. Jeffrey has Autism. Not all of the guests have Autism, but they all have special needs, like Jeffrey. Planning a party can be a daunting task for children that require a lot of attention and The Cherry is here to help.
Children with special needs already have it tough. Not having parties for them or not allowing them to go to parties is not a great option. It's important to learn or tolerate how to attend a social gathering. Start with small steps, but make sure you start.
Know your guests:
Be selective with your guest list. Make sure you know who is coming and what the children are like. I chose, low key kids that were not aggressive. Mine are the opposite and balance is essential for a successful party. Don't feel bad about not inviting someone who might make you or your guests feel uncomfortable. It's YOUR party.
Some children are incredibly shy and do not do well in strange places. Make sure you are aware of this, first. Very often, special needs children are afraid of pets, sudden and loud noises as well as loud/harsh voices. Consider a dog sitter or keeping them outside. Even barking can be very scary and or stressful for your guests.
They may need help going to the toilet, redressing after the toilet and guidance with hand washing. Often, they may need to be reminded to go to the bathroom as well.
You could always talk to the teacher to find answers to important questions.
(If you are wanting the recipe and tutorial on how to make this spider web cake, click here.)
Invitations: Keep them plain and clear. Often, the parents of special needs kids are special themselves. Reading might be a problem and also consider if they speak the language that's on the invitation, if the child cannot read it for them. Consider an invitation with an insert where the parent can fill in any special requirements, quirks or imprint information and send it back to you.
Contacting Parents: This can be very difficult. It could take a very long time to get information to and from parents. Don't buy ahead without knowing, if at all possible. I was planning on three children. One said they were not coming on the day of the party and one had an extended illness and never bothered to call us to tell us that.
Consider the number of children that you wish to invite. I only invited three, low key kids because I was on my own. If you have more help, then you may consider inviting more. A ratio of 3 kids to one adult should do. Depending on the level of experience the adult has in dealing with special needs kids.
A lot of challenged children like to play on their own. Be ready for that. I combat this by having stations with different activities as well as a place where we can all be together and a place where they can safely retreat.
Will your invitations include children without special needs and are they used to being around these kind of children? There are a lot of folks out there who are inexperienced in dealing with the special needs of others. A good explanation of what they can expect to see at the social function is highly recommended as well as what and what not to do while there. Do they want to be there? Think about this as well and although you may consider it a learning experience for them, if both they and the host might suffer from them being there is it worth them attending?
Over Plan: Always, always, always have more activities planned then what there is time for. You will thank yourself for this. Keep the activities VERY simple or at least use activities where the level of difficulty can be adjusted. Simple colouring pages and more difficult ones is a good example. Many special needs children lack in motor skills. Keep this mind when planning activities, too.
Keep it short: Keep your party short. 1-3 hours maximum. Working with special needs children is really tiring. I have two and that's hard enough. Adding a couple more to the plate is very difficult for a seasoned, former teacher and mother of two Autistic boys.
If you are not comfortable around children like this, then consider not having a party or consider having a party with family members. It took me two years before I adjusted to being around multiple children with specific needs. I felt terrible in the beginning, but now I love it. Don't beat yourself up if you feel this way. Your feelings are yours, for whatever reason. Emerging yourself in the school's environment will help a lot. It isn't easy in the beginning, but if you keep with it, it will come. If it doesn't, at least you tried. I believe with my heart, that it takes a special someone to work with kids like this and love it and there is absolutely no shame if that person isn't you.
Prepare yourself for the reaction of others: Many of my friends who also have children with extraordinary situations, complain about the evil looks they receive from other people who are not aware of their children's situation nor how much that parent might be doing to try to improve it. I suggest two things. The first is really easy. Ignore it. Do NOT let the insensitive cruelty of others bring you down. I actually feel sorry for them for being judgemental where they shouldn't be. You could try the humour card and have a few lines prepared such as: "If you are trying the Jedi Mind Trick on my child, it's obviously not working. So, you can stop now." or "You wanna trade jobs?!" You could turn the tables and focus your attention and your child's on the person who is upsetting you by loudly and absurdly stating, "Look! Yet another small mind who thinks they can alter this awkward and painful situation by their disapproving looks!!" Often, I act just as silly with them and then you get the expression of, "The nut doesn't fall far from the tree." and that seems to be more acceptable than their misinterpretation of bad behaviour due to poor parenting. Hehehe...
These are my tips. I hope they will help you. Here are some more links with more tips on hosting a party for kids with special needs.