How to Plan and Execute Your Autistic Child’s Birthday Party With Friends

Categories: Parent Perspective

My autistic son is in second grade and for the first time in public school. This school year has been a whirlwind of firsts for him—first time having friends, first time attending a birthday party, first time having a playdate. In April, he celebrated his eighth birthday with another first, the first time having friends at his party. With ABA by my side, we spent the weeks up to the big day planning and preparing.


We wanted him involved in every step of the process. We allowed him to pick the location. He chose an indoor race track. It was perfect because they. had a small private, quiet party room with a TV if he felt sensory overload. In the weeks prior, he helped with the invitations. He helped assemble the goodie bags. The day of, he helped decorate the room at the race track. He even created a seating chart for his friends. And all of this I broke down in small steps written out in task-like form for him to check out as it was done. He was fully prepared and excited by the time party day arrived. So if you are planning a party for your child, let them be a part of that process. Many autistic individuals feel more in control and safer when there aren’t surprises.

Party Day


Consider the time of day and duration of the party. For my son, I scheduled the party when his afternoon meds kicked in and timed it to end 2 hours later. Most of our kiddos have a shelf-life. Even as adults we do!


Keep it simple. You’ll have a lot to manage. A few pizzas and a couple of soda bottles will do the trick. Due to his food sensitivities, my son won’t eat pizza but everyone else will. So we tossed some mac and cheese in a thermos. It was win, win for everyone.

Give Them the Freedom to Not Participate

The main building holds two race tracks and it’s pretty loud and chaotic. At one point, he said he was done. He and I went to the empty party room (all the other kids were racing and watching each other) and I allowed him some quiet time. There was a TV in the room. Luckily I found an episode of Spongebob. After he decompressed a few minutes, he was ready to join his friends again.

End of the Party

I’d planned to let my son open his gifts at home. But by the party’s end, his kind friends wanted him to see what they’d brought for him. I put him in a chair by the gift table and had him call one friend at a time to bring their gift. I tried to keep this part calm. Then we took a picture with each friend so we could forever remember the wonderful children who were at his first ever friend birthday.


The party went off without a hitch. But that was due to careful and early planning, the input and support of his ABA team, and the wonderful families that attended. If you have never had friends at your autistic child’s birthday party, I urge you to try! Maybe some of these suggestions will help!

Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!
Dr. Suess


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