Including Kids with Special Needs

Your son or daughter with special needs has been invited to a birthday party or you are inviting a child with special needs—hurrah!

Your son or daughter with special needs has been invited to a birthday party­—hurrah! So often your child is left out. Being proactive can help the big day be a success for all and lead to smoother, long-term relationships among the children.

First, reach out to talk to the child’s parent to thank her, and ask a few questions. If you know what the activities will be ahead of time, you can help your child be prepared. For example, if the activity is bowling, let the birthday mom know that your child may need help tying his bowling shoes. You want your child to be as independent as possible, so you could send a note with his shoe size so he can order his shoes himself. If possible, plan a family bowling outing ahead of time, preferably at the site of the party, to help your child feel more confident on the day of the event.

Other things to consider are whether there will be other children there that your child knows, and if there are any physical barriers if your child uses a wheelchair or other mobility equipment.

Especially if your child is younger, you might volunteer to come along as a helper—staying in the background as much as possible.

Finally, it’s okay to decline an invitation if that seems best for your child. If your child dislikes movement or has a fear of heights, a trampoline park party might not be fun for your child at all.

Pink Cupcake

On the other side of the coin–if you’re inviting a child with special needs to a party, try to get to know the child ahead of time. Check with her parent on activities that she enjoys and can participate in. Ask if she has any allergies or food sensitivities. Also check to see if noise or bright lights will bother her.

Setting up a play date ahead of time can help the children get to know each other better. On the day of the party, be sure the child is being included. It’s heartbreaking for the mom to pick up her child and find her sitting by herself while the other children are enjoying the party together.

One mom shared that it’s important that you are inviting her child for the right reasons: “Please don’t think of this just as a good or right thing to do or a lesson for your child. Invite my child because you like her, and because she is part of your child’s class or church group.”

As children get older and the gaps grow larger, it’s more difficult for kids with special needs to fit in at this type of social event. Creating close bonds with children at an early age can help overcome that, and create meaningful relationships.

Written By Julie Gehm, MBA, LifeScape