How to Make a Place Welcoming
Tips for Hosting a Party in Your Home
- Talk to the parents/caregiver before your gathering to learn about any sensitivities the person may have. This could include loud music, the need for less lighting, avoiding strong smells (including scented candles or potpourri), food aversions, or sitting on soft vs. hard furniture.
- Designate a quiet area in your home, separated from the event, in case the person needs to take a break from the noise and excitement.
- Determine a general schedule, and give that schedule to the parents/caregiver ahead of time. Consider what time people will be arriving and leaving; if food is being served; or if there is entertainment for your guests. Will your event involve opening presents, or are you singing “Happy Birthday” or Christmas carols? All of these details will help the family prepare for smooth transitions throughout the event.
- Defer to the parents of younger children when needing to make planning decisions (i.e. Is the child able to sit at a “kids’ table”; Can the child sit through a movie; Is the child afraid of noisemakers or balloons?).
- Offer the person with autism the same attention you would to any other guest. Engage them in conversation, even if they only want to talk about their interests. Conversations are important for boosting their social skills.
- Be flexible with plans and be understanding if the family needs to leave earlier than you would prefer.
- Assume that some parents may bring special toys, foods, or other comfort objects for their child. When it’s time to leave, offer to help make sure they have everything they brought with them.
General Tips for a Get-Together with Someone with Autism
- Be considerate of sensory sensitivities the person may have (the need for less lighting, a quieter area, non-smoking environment, sitting on soft vs. hard furniture).
- Consider that the person might also have a sensitivity to strong smells. Avoid strong smelling cleaning products, scented candles or other room deodorizers, and pungent cooking smells.
- Present a written or visual schedule of how you will be spending your time together with a clear beginning and end.
- Suggest using pictures or written cards to foster communication such as “quiet,” “I need a break,” or “I need help.”
- Offer to use a timer to provide limits and closure.
- Ask a parent or caregiver in advance if the individual has any other particular habits or needs that you can prepare for in advance. Do they have strong food aversions? Are they comfortable with animals?
- Help engage the person in as much conversation as possible, regardless of the topic. Conversations are important for boosting social skills and engaging the person with autism.
- Depending on the activity, recognize when the individual is feeling overwhelmed or is mentally exhausted and needs a brain break (an opportunity to step away from what you are doing to go to a quiet place).
- Be flexible and open-minded with your plans.