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How to have a great birthday party for a child with autism or sensory challenges


Birthdays can be enjoyable, unforgettable festivities to commemorate another year in your kid’s life.

They can also be tense, daunting and not worth the hassle or cost.

Hosting a successful party and locating a fitting venue can be an annual triumph, particularly for families with children on the autism spectrum or with sensory processing difficulties.

My eldest son is on the autism spectrum. Our family’s history with social gatherings is a blend of failures and successes.

Dr. Emily Neuhaus, a renowned clinical psychologist at Seattle Children’s Autism Center and esteemed contributor to the widely-followed Autism Blog, asserts that birthday celebrations often present a myriad of obstacles for many children.

Children with autism may find it challenging to adapt to unexpected changes, cope with loud and chaotic environments, and meet the heightened expectations of social interactions.

Conventional birthday celebrations, alongside most party locations, inherently embody a boisterous and frenzied atmosphere. Numerous parents of children facing sensory difficulties opt to commemorate this special day within the comfort of their own homes, seeking a more serene environment with reduced sensory stimulation.

While that is a completely acceptable option, Dr. Neuhaus highlights that there are also advantages to commemorating in a public setting.

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“Community birthday celebrations offer children with autism the chance to partake in an extraordinary event, just like their peers. Moreover, these gatherings present a unique and unfamiliar experience, fostering growth and exploration.”

Thankfully, Seattle boasts a growing array of “sensory-friendly” choices. Among them are dedicated indoor play areas tailored for children on the spectrum and well-established museums with a strong commitment to enhancing accessibility.

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Laura Porto Stockwell harbors a profound dread when it comes to organizing a birthday celebration for her young lad, who happens to be a 10-year-old on the autism spectrum, as her utmost concern revolves around the possibility of an empty gathering.

“I feel obligated to host a highly enjoyable celebration,” she declares.

For her son’s birthday celebration, she opted for the Pacific Science Center due to its multitude of attractions. The science-infused parties provided by PSC are not only incredibly captivating (they have the ability to transform liquid nitrogen into instant ice cream), but they also create an ideal sensory ambiance for her son.

Just like numerous children who fall on the autism spectrum, he possesses a heightened sensitivity to sounds. Additionally, he encounters difficulties when surrounded by large gatherings. The party rooms within PSC provided a perfect haven where ambient noise was kept to a minimum, and other visitors to the museum were segregated, thus enabling him to solely engage with his intimate circle of friends.

By organizing a rocket design and launch session for every child, the party provided a perfect balance of structure and social engagement, helping her son feel comfortable and at ease.

“According to Porto Stockwell, it enabled him to be a member of the team without feeling too burdened by the group.”

When organizing a child’s birthday celebration, Dr. Neuhaus highlights the significance of considering the scenario that is bound to bring the most delight and amusement to that particular child.

For Marianne Bryan’s daughter, who is on the autism spectrum and has a strong affinity for water, the perfect location for her birthday celebration would be a swimming pool.

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“Renting the Ballard pool was our daughter’s initial achievement at the age of 11,” Bryan states.

Bryan, a mother of three children with autism, believes that the crucial element lies in having the opportunity to exclusively lease the entire facility. This grants her the freedom to curate a tailored atmosphere that caters to the unique requirements of each of her children.

With a keen eye for detail, she masterfully curtails the number of participants, orchestrates the pool staff to gracefully silence the music, and strategically arranges the initial rental of the day to ensure an uninterrupted experience for all. Additionally, she conscientiously familiarizes her children with a captivating social narrative, enabling them to anticipate and embrace every moment.

With a generous two-hour window, there is ample opportunity for engaging pool activities, followed by a delightful indulgence in cake or snacks. Bryan’s family, who adheres to a gluten-free lifestyle, also appreciates the added advantage of being able to bring their own nourishment when renting the pool.

Parents frequently have to take into account the requirements of multiple children when organizing parties.

When it was time to commemorate my younger son’s fourth birthday, we faced the challenge of finding a location that would also be enjoyable for my older son.

We stumbled upon the ideal location at We Rock The Spectrum in Bellevue. While the facility is specifically crafted to cater to the sensory requirements of children on the autism spectrum, the inclusion of a climbing wall, trampoline, and zip line makes it an irresistible attraction for any child (my 4-year-old was absolutely delighted).

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How to have a great birthday party for a child with autism or sensory challenges

Nha Trang

While catering to the sensory requirements of children on the autism spectrum, the gym offers an array of attractions such as the climbing wall, trampoline, and zipline that captivate children of all abilities.

According to Shirley Sarmiento-Blaha, a gym owner and a twin mother with children on the autism spectrum, the essence lies in this notion – children, regardless of their placement on the autism spectrum, should not be confined to separate play.

“We’re not only catering to individuals with special needs,” Sarmiento-Blaha asserts. “We’re a venue where people of all abilities

Rina Arustamova stumbled upon We Rock The Spectrum thanks to a friend who had a child on the autism spectrum. Presently, she commemorates her son’s annual birthday bash at this extraordinary place and wholeheartedly suggests this gymnasium to her acquaintances.

“It provides for every little thing a child would desire to do,” states Arustamova.

With an array of gym equipment that caters to everyone, she finds immense joy. Moreover, the fact that she can extend invitations to her friends with children on the autism spectrum, knowing they will be at ease in that space, adds to her delight.

Sarmiento-Blaha asserts that parents are highly fond of the expansive and unobstructed play area, a secluded sanctuary for tranquility, and the fact that the entire establishment can be leased. The WRTS party packages provide an array of choices, spanning from solely acquiring the premises to securing proficient personnel for children requiring additional assistance.

On my son’s sixth birthday, we hosted an intimate celebration within the comfort of our own home. Opting for this option was not only the finest decision we could make that year, but more importantly, it fulfilled his heart’s desire.

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It fills my heart with gratitude to discover the existence of alternative choices, where both of my boys can joyfully commemorate their birthdays within their community, free from any discomfort or sense of exclusion.

Porto Stockwell expresses a similar feeling:

It’s a monumental occasion to have folks gather and commemorate my son. This event holds immense significance for both me and him. It instills a sense of worth and jubilation within him.

That is the purpose of birthday celebrations.

The Pacific Science Center

Celebrate your special day with our incredible birthday party packages! Prices start at just $350 for 30 guests if you’re a PSC member, or $455 for 40 guests if you’re not. Prepare to be amazed as you select from a variety of mind-blowing science themes that will leave your guests in awe. And don’t forget, all our packages come with the delicious treat of liquid nitrogen ice cream! For further information, be sure to visit pacificsciencecenter.Org. To make a reservation and inquire about any special arrangements, simply give us a call at (206) 443-3611. Let’s make your birthday party an unforgettable scientific adventure!

Ballard Pool.

Experience the splendor of Ballard Pool with an exclusive two-hour rental, priced at a mere $302.50. Immerse yourself in the refreshing waters for an hour, followed by an hour of relaxation in the luxurious lobby. This incredible offer accommodates up to 30 swimmers, adults included. To secure your reservation, simply reach out to Ballard Pool at (206) 684-4094. Please note that rates and availability may differ slightly at other Seattle Parks and Rec pools. For further information, feel free to contact your local pool or visit seattle.Gov/parks/find/pools.

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We are The Spectrum’s champions

Celebrate your special day with our incredible birthday party options starting at just $150 per hour! Our packages cater to groups of up to 20 children, with the flexibility to accommodate additional kids at just $10 each. Enjoy the entire gym and equipment exclusively for your party, creating unforgettable memories. For added convenience, select packages even provide extra staff support. Contact us at 425-223-5585 or visit werockthespectrumeastsideseattle.Com to book your extraordinary celebration now!

Residing in the vibrant neighborhood of Ballard, Lynn Dixon cherishes her life with a loving husband and two captivating young boys. Exploring various locations where they can freely unleash their energy, create commotion, and indulge in playful activities fills their hearts with joy. Lynn firmly holds the belief that uniqueness knows no bounds, as she perceives every child as inherently talented. Embracing our individual weaknesses as our greatest strength, she acknowledges the power of vulnerability in fostering deep connections among people.

Explore more of her writings and connect on her blog or her Facebook profile.

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