Planning a Birthday Party for a Child With Sensory Processing Disorder

Making Sensible Birthday Memories For A Child With SPD

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) refers to the way the body receives and interprets messages from the senses and, in a child, those feelings can be broadly manifested into a wide array of emotions. Over 16 percent of school-aged children experience SPD, which can make planning celebrations like birthday parties a challenge for parents. Since youngsters’ birthday parties often thrive on over-the-top trappings, to avoid potential SPD adverse reactions, the aim is to block out as much overstimulation as possible.

Processing A Sensory Disorder

SPDs are more prevalent in children than autism and as common as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The actual diagnosis is still being researched since SPD has many manifestations. A child with SPD can experience a gamut of emotions such as anxiousness, depression or even aggressiveness depending on how stimuli triggers the child’s sensory responses.

Common triggers include loud sounds or having too many people and activities happening at once. On the opposite spectrum’s end, SPD-related reactions can occur when the child feels a poor connection to the surrounding environment. The key to planning social activities such as birthday parties is to ensure the child can process the level of sensory input.

Creating A Calming Birthday Celebration

Since birthdays come only once a year, they are usually flush with elaborate celebration. However, less is more for a child with SPD. For parents, choosing a proper theme and meaningful images that convey congratulations while also providing the proper level of stimulation is the best place to start. Keep the colors fairly muted, the noise-makers to a minimum and, instead of latex balloons that can pop easily, opt for sturdier Mylar balloons.

Birthday games that are overly active can also trigger a minor meltdown. Instead of playing “Pin the Tail on the Donkey,” opt for a calm, coloring contest where each person gets a prize for participating. If you notice your child getting overwhelmed, take a time out to let him collect his thoughts.

When it comes to the guest list, bigger isn’t always better. The more invitees, the more overwhelming the experience can become with greater noise. Inviting only one or two close friends keeps the noise level low and the focus on the birthday boy lest his focus gets lost in a larger group.

Celebrating a birthday can be bittersweet for parents of children diagnosed with SPD. Yet with proper planning and avoiding anxious behavior triggers, a birthday can be still be a most special day. Keeping things calm and in control allows you and your child to celebrate the day’s most important aspect: that you’ve just spent another year happily growing together.