The Prince requested a "real" birthday party this year. In the past, we have just invited his cousins over to our house for cake. Like any autism-mom, I had some trepidation, based on our mixed-experiences with the inevitable sensory overload and social skill complications that we have witnessed at birthday parties we have attended over the years.
Fortunately, one of the parties that we attended last year that was a hit with the junior aspie and autie crowd was at a place called "Pump It Up." (Special thanks to fellow-blogger and friend Queen B: Diary of an Autism Mom for inviting us to her son's party there last year). Pump It Up is an indoor, bounce-house, fantasy land. You spend 30-40 minutes (depending on your budget) in two different "arenas" full of over-sized bounce houses. Then you have 30 minutes in the "party room" for cake.
Pump It Up, allows you to bring your own cake, cupcakes, beverages, and dry, packaged snacks (chips, cookies, candy, etc.); essential for GFCF kids, or any children with allergies. They do not permit you to bring in pizza or ice cream, you have to use their provider (who is not GFCF, though they did offer Kosher pizza and ice cream cake). But we were fine with just cake and snacks.
As I mentioned in an earlier blog, here, I needed a professional baker to make a GFCFSF and nut-free cake, since many of our little guests have serious allergies. I can make a decent GFCF cake, but we do have soy and peanuts in our house, so my kitchen is not "dedicated" and I didn't want to take a chance. Above is the great Lightning McQueen cake made for us by Chef Pamela Nicosia, founder of Sugar Temptations by Grainless Kitchen created for us.
This was really the first year I thought the Prince could handle a party like this, and even so, he was very over-stimulated afterwards, but overall I think a good time was had by all. Here are some party-planning tips which worked for us:
Keep it short: this party was only an hour and a half. An hour spent running around and jumping in the bounce houses, a half hour eating.
Keep it simple: we didn't have games, or open presents at the party. The kids just arrived, jumped their little hearts out. Ate. And hopefully had a good night's sleep after all that bouncing.
Keep it small: Pump it Up has two sizes for parties. We opted for the "mini" which has a max of 14 children. We had 9. My mother used to say a good rule for children's parties is to invite the same number of children as the child's age, plus 1. That seems like a pretty good rule.
Keep it quiet: Out of the 9 children at the party, 4 were on the ASD spectrum. We chose to have the party on a weekday, after school, rather than on a weekend. This had two advantages. It is cheaper. Pump It Up is trying to get weekday business so they have a reduced rate. Also, weekends are booked there, one party after another. We were the only ones there the day of the Prince's party. The small number of petite partiers and the slow weekday made it a very ASD-friendly experience. One warning, Pump It Up has a central sound system, so if there are other parties in other rooms the same day as yours, they cannot turn down, or turn off the music. Since we were the only ones, they could.
These are the main reasons we chose Pump It Up for our party. But it is worth mentioning that Pump It Up supports The Autism Society of America with its Bounce for Autism fund-raisers,which may be one of the reasons I found our local franchise to be so ASD-Friendly!