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