Alaya Ponsford, 41, from Park Gate, set up the Owen’s Party initiative, after her own son was ostricized from going to parties due to a lack of understanding from other parents.
Alaya said: ‘Due to Owen’s autism his behaviour can become heightened. I began to notice he was becoming increasing excluded from parties with his school friends. He had become aware that he wasn’t getting invited.’
Fellow parent, Gemma Clair, 40, whose son Henry is also autistic, added: ‘A lot of parents don’t understand the needs of autistic children. Parties are often held in soft play areas where it’s very noisy and crowded and children simply become overwhelmed.’
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The parties host a maximum of 10 students, provide a sensory room, and have range of activities and specially adapted games. Alaya’s mantra is that “every child deserves to go to a party”.
‘It’s important to have a variety of activities as attention spans may only last a few minutes. Children can choose which games to participate in and we play pass the parcel where all the children have a box and everyone ends up with a prize,’ she said.
Gemma added: ‘Alaya has a real understanding of how to cater for the children’s needs. At the start of a party, Henry can often become overwhelmed and being able to go into the sensory room just calms him down.’
As well as creating a safe, calm environment for children on the autistic spectrum it also provides a support network for parents experiencing similar challenges.
Kirsty Clarke, 42, commented: ‘There’s not enough awareness about what is a hidden disability. Coming to the parties reduces the isolation many parents feel.’
Hayley Pretlove, 42, added: ‘It’s important for parents to come here as it provides a support network in knowing you are not alone.’
Parties are held every two months and include themes such as Halloween and Christmas.
Poppy Pretlove, eight, who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), said: ‘I really enjoy coming to the parties. There are less children which means you get the chance to try everything.’
Henry Claire, eight, added: ‘I liked the sensory room and can’t wait until the next party.’