Dealing with Sensory overload…at a party.

J has difficulties with auditory based sensory stimulus as well as balance and textures. Today J (and I) had his tolerance levels well and truelly tested.

Today was J’s first party (non family based). It was his friend from preschools birthday. It’s a lovely family that I’ve known for many years through work, and then as a parent once J started preschool. The party was a disco complete with lights, noise and lots of his preschool buddies (along with mum’s, dad’s and grandparents).

This caused a number of issues for J:

  1. Why was everyone from preschool in a strange hall instead of the preschool?
  2. Why have the mum’s and dads stayed instead of dropping off and leaving?
  3. What is the loud noise? Argh, a balloon popped, is that going to happen again?
  4. Why is there so much light and colour on the floor and ceiling and all around?
  5. What’s going to happen when I get in there?

Despite having used his symbol cards before we left and showing them to him, his meltdown had reached the level where there was no reasoning. I took him out and hovered in the door way so he could acclimatise to the room from ‘safety’.

I then saw party drinks. J is only allowed squash and juice for ‘treats’ or with meals normally so I thought I’d try ‘positive reinforcement’ (otherwise known as bribery). He entered the room but we had to sit as far back as possible and in the corner.

The birthday girls Mummy asked if there was anything she could to help J. It was such a kind offer that I actually felt teary. You hear stories of parents made to feel in the way or a burden because of their child’s additional needs, but we’ve had nothing but support and understanding. I know we’re really lucky. Anyway, I told her it was ok. Her understanding was more than enough. I can’t expect the world to change for J and I have to help him learn to manage the world around him.

So, we found the perfect hiding place for J. He found a window sill with a curtain that he could shut himself away in. He sat and played with his cars for a little while. Then wheels on the bus came on the disco and J actually got down off the window sill and danced with me…then returning to his special place.

The music stopped and we had party food. Once J trusted that the music really was finished, he sat and ate with everyone and went running around the hall. He found a circuit he could do so was a happy boy.

Luckily, he was so happy in his new game that when he music came on, he froze and covered his ears but I managed to convince him to keep running around rather than hiding. I think the music was turned down a bit, and it was more party games so the music was on/off so distracted him.

So, it took an hour in total for J to get passed the sensory overload. But he did it and he had a fab time. I am so grateful to the Mum’s and Dads for not making us feel like outsiders. The children themselves were all trying to help J. They know J’s special ways and have always been really understanding. It was so kind of them to continue this outside of preschool too.

I have come up with the following plan for future parties:

  • Ask the host if we can come early, before the disco and crowds so he can build up to the noise/lights.
  • Bring ear defenders (I’ll mention this to OT).
  • Find ways to bribe him a lot earlier 😉

If the birthday girls Mummy and Daddy ever read this…thank you. Thank you for inviting us, thank you for having us and thank you for not removing us from the premises (haha). If you are a Mummy or Daddy planning a party then please invite even the ‘difficult’ children. It honestly does mean the world to us to be able to be part of the social world…even if we have to tweak it slightly.

Any stories, advice or comments are welcome…find us on Facebook or Instagram ❤️

6 Comments Add yours

  1. trouserbee says:

    Hello, thank you for sharing your experience, i’m really pleased you and your boy were able to have an overall positive experience of a party or that you both found ways of coping positively. i’m also really pleased that you were made to feel welcome and included. lets hope you get pleanty more experiences like this and better.

    Ps. Ear defenders sound like a brilliant idea.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. mummyest2014 says:

      Thanks Trouserbee. We have occupational therapy soon (hopefully as we’re on a waiting list) so definately something I’ll bring up with them x

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for sharing this, although the party may have had its ups and down…it seems like he had a good time. This was a great learning experience for both child and adult. Mine is a multi-food allergy child and parties are always hard because of food issues and even after 10yrs…I always take notes on what to do “next time”…I can really appreciate your diligence as a mama. good job!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. mummyest2014 says:

      Thanks for commenting. Life as a mother is certainly ‘interesting’ haha. Never a moments rest for bodies or mind 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Morgan says:

    This is such a sweet post! This is my first time visiting your blog and it is so positive. I’m glad J was able to have a good time at the birthday party, and that everyone was so understanding and inclusive; I’m sure it makes a world of difference when some days are harder than others. I appreciate you sharing your story!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. mummyest2014 says:

      Aw thank you Morgan. Our day to day lives can be so changable and full of every emotion but J is a gorgeous little boy and the days he makes me laugh make up for all the stress x


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