Inclusion for Birthday Parties

Homemade birthday bombs are perfect entertainment for any kids' birthday party. (Fotolia)One of the heartbreaking episodes that teachers witness is when children come to school and eagerly give out their birthday invitations . . . to a select few. Sometimes, we are able to quietly intervene and help the child place the invitations in the backpacks at recess or the end of the day, but too often . . . well, you get it--feelings are hurt. If at all possible, please do not use the school as the delivery site for birthday invitations.

To parents of children with special needs, the whole birthday party issue can be especially hurtful. Their child is not often included. So, what can you do to be mindful of the children who so dearly want to be included? Here are a few tips.

1. Invite the child and their parent to attend. It gives you an extra pair of hands and reduces the anxiety of both child and parent.
2. Call the parent prior to the invitations going out, and explain that you would like their child to attend, and explain what the party entails. There may be mobility aids, or special comforts that the parent might bring to make the time at the party successful. By giving the parent a basic schedule of what the party looks like, he/she will be able to prepare a child by making a visual schedule and social stories ahead of time to prepare the child.
3. Ask if the duration of the party is right for the child, and ask their advice about early or later arrival and pick-up. (By giving the schedule, the parent can know better whether this party will be successful for the child.)
4. Provide a quiet space. Think ahead of games that you intend to play, so that you are prepared with ways to support inclusion in the games. You will be surprised how supportive your children's friends are with 'bending the rules' to ensure everyone has fun. Children get that fairness includes helping everyone to participate.

What experiences have you had that made inclusion a success?

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