Having Birthday Parties when your Child has Special Needs

When a child is disabled, we tend to think that the stimulation will be too much for them or that the effort isn’t worth the hassle….And who would come, anyway? Well, I can’t imagine that no one would show up if you invited them to attend. Often times, special needs children are extremely important to friends and family and they enjoy being included in your party plans. There are a few things to think about when coming up with a plan.



If you know that large crowds upset your child, invite only the closest friends and family to keep it more of an intimate occasion. Start having parties early so they understand as they grow older. Allow that time to be a special time set aside just for them by catering to their needs. My niece had a really fun gathering for her baby (she was born with Down’s Syndrome) when she turned one. This will set the precedence for each year when her birthday rolls around again. It was the first time I had met her and it was a wonderful bonding time for me. The baby isn’t going to remember the event, but gathering with other people will feel more familiar to her each year. Do not invite people who may be harsh or negative about your child’s condition. That will cause friction and will upset your little one.


You don’t want to go into hosting a party without things for the kids to do. Sensory games and activities are more fun than games that have a lot of rules and can be confusing. Kids don’t want to be in trouble because they don’t understand. It will only cause tantrums and meltdowns, so stick to things that tickle their senses.

  • Water games
  • Object in a bag (where you put things of different textures in brown bags and they have to guess what it is by feel)
  • Bowling (Use empty water bottles and a Nerf ball)
  • Shakers (putting different dry goods in containers…like beans, rice, or marbles…and letting the kids shake them)
  • Finger Painting (whipped cream or shaving cream work well. The texture is different than paint and won’t stain hands or clothes.)

For messy activities, keep boxes of wet wipes handy to clean hands and faces. Plan activities based on your child’s capacity, not everyone else. He/she will not have fun if they can’t really participate.


It is a good idea to make sure that there are no allergies to deal with when planning your munchies and cake. When kids are small, it isn’t so bad. But as they grow, they make friends and those friends may need special attention to their diet. If you don’t know them all well, be sure an adult will be available at the party to see to their care or make a system that works for you to identify what the allergies are. Stamps on the arm in different colors or name-tags of some sort will make it easier for you to remember. Avoid foods that are choking hazards and very sugary snacks. Soft homemade cookies and fruit leather are happy foods and you can better control the amount of sugar in them. Natural grocery stores tend to have a lot of foods to choose from that are better for the body and sugar free/gluten free. Being good for you doesn’t mean it tastes bad.

Your Home:

Before the party, you should survey your home and decide if you need to remove items that could get broken or might be hazardous to other children, like small rocks or paperclips, glass objects or antiques. Just move them to another room or place them higher up and out of the reach of little hands.

It is also a good idea to have pictures that the children can identify easily, such as the bathroom. Be certain your facilities are clean and free of chemicals. You may want to know exactly where the key is to the bathroom door in case someone locks themselves in.

Be certain your stove is cool before anyone comes over. Curious children will get on their tip toes to reach up and see what they can grab. It would be a shame if a child got burned at such a happy party!

The Festivities:

Decorate to be stimulating. Bright colors and textures are great for kids. Watch out for latex allergies where balloons are concerned and dispose of popped balloons immediately. Kids tend to put the pieces in their mouths and choke on them.

Amazingly, cupcakes work very well for a lot of reasons. No one argues over who gets what frosting or candy, it takes a fraction of the time to serve, and it is their own. No sharing of a community cake. If you choose to have ice cream, spread the ice cream in the bottom of a 9×13 pan and freeze it nice and solid. Take a metal cookie cutter and cut shapes out of the frozen ice cream. Remove the cut outs and place on cookie sheets lined with wax paper. When you go to dish everyone up, you just plop an ice cream cutout on their plate and you are done. No more digging out of the container!

As a parent of a special needs child, you probably know CPR. Other first aid skills are great to know just in case of emergency. No one likes to have a sad end to a great day, but it does happen. Be sure to have as many adults helping you as possible and have an area dedicated for calming down if kids get agitated.

Parties should be great fun! Children with special needs are so sweet and loving, why deny them the celebration of their life? If planned well, it will be no sweat for you to host the gathering and have a blast!

Jenny Franklin loves planning children’s parties and making kids’ dreams come true. When she’s not planning parties, she does some blogging and writes for the party 1st birthday party supplier 1stbirthdayparty.com

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