One of the best parts of parenthood is sharing your own childhood joys with your kids. When you raise a family, you have a chance to recreate your favorite memories and pass along cherished traditions as well.
That said, children with autism often need support in order to successfully participate in celebrations such as birthday parties. Such gatherings typically involve more people, noise, and sugary treats than usual, so it’s important to prepare your child to deal with the onslaught of emotional and sensory stimuli.
Not sure where to begin the preparation process? To help your child learn how to join in the celebration without suffering from confusion or triggering a meltdown, try a social story.
What are social stories?
As the National Autistic Society website notes, social stories were created by Carol Gray in 1991 as a means of teaching social skills to students with autism. By pairing pictures with explanatory text, social stories demystify daily life scenarios for individuals on the spectrum.
Social stories feature brief overviews of common situations, along with tips on how to communicate, respond to cues, and engage in safe behaviors. They’re helpful tools that allow you to prepare your child to interact successfully.
Printable social stories for birthday parties
Feel like you don’t have time to create or gather printable social stories before you attend the festivities? No problem! We’ve got you covered. Here’s a list of our favorite online resources for birthday party social stories.
- Positively Autism provides several free printable stories: Having a Birthday Party, Opening Presents at a Party, Going to a Birthday Party, Playing Piñata at a Party, and of course, Playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey. Along with a Birthday Party Visual Schedule, they also have a general Social Skills Freebies and Resources section including stories about feeling angry, screaming, taking turns, saying hello, and more.
- Car Autism Roadmap offers a helpful list of suggestions for creating your own, tailor-made birthday party social story. In turn, Autism Speaks also offers a resource library of Visual Tools, which includes links to customizable online social story creators.
- Prefer an illustrated print book to read with your child? Check out Nancy Carlson and Armond Isaak’s delightful 2014 children’s book, Armond Goes to a Party: A Book About Asperger’s and Friendship. This realistic story can empower your child to face fears and show up to a friend’s party, just like Armond.
- Looking for social stories for different scenarios? FirstPath Autism also offers free compilations of printable social stories for emergency situations and visiting family during the holidays.
Lessen anxiety and plan for success
Social stories can mitigate the anxiety involved with difficult, over-stimulating, or unfamiliar aspects of birthday parties. When the balloon pops or the clown appears, social stories give your child a script to follow and a better chance of remaining calm.
As we wrote in our post Printable social stories and visual schedules for students with autism:
“Reviewing new social situations [in advance] may lessen the fear that accompanies them. In this way, social stories free children with autism to learn and make connections and provide socially appropriate behaviors.”
So don’t wait–download free printable stories today!