So what exactly do you mean by sensory-friendly birthday party themes? The theme of the birthday party can be designed to fit the needs of a family with a sensory child, but what about a theme for children with autism? What would make your theme “sensory friendly”?
The first thing to remember is that autism spectrum disorder is not the same as a Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). The most common type of Autism Spectrum Disorder is Asperger's Syndrome, where a person has autistic characteristics and is diagnosed with AS. Children with AS also may have other types of developmental delays and may be diagnosed with Asperger's Disorder. What I am talking about is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), which is a cluster of symptoms that can lead to Asperger's Syndrome, but have nothing to do with sensory sensitivity.
Sensory sensitivity in children with autism is different than sensory sensitivity in children with SPD. Children with Asperger's Syndrome are often irritable and aggressive, whereas children with Autism Spectrum Disorder are often quiet, even sullen. Many children with Autism Spectrum Disorder have some degree of sensory sensitivity but the number increases with age. Children with Asperger's Syndrome tend to be quieter, less sociable and are often frustrated with sensory stimulation, but children with Autism Spectrum Disorder are often overly excited about sensory stimuli.
Sensory sensitivity in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder is more intense than sensory sensitivity in children with Asperger's Syndrome. If a birthday party theme has to do with sensory activity, this is an excellent theme to choose. For example, a sensory theme may be based on color, sound, touch, smell or texture. Another idea is to create a sensory-activity theme. A sensory activity theme could be based on playing pretend, using a table, chairs, and other sensory items such as paper clips. For instance, children could pretend to paint with paintbrushes, play musical instruments, use a squirt bottle, or use a toy car as a play toy. Children with Asperger's Syndrome are more interested in the sensory details of things than children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Some themes are perfect for children with Asperger's Syndrome and some are perfect for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. For example, if a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder wants to pretend to be a frog, then using a table with a chair in it would be ideal, but if a child with Asperger's Syndrome would like to pretend to be a bee, using a table with a chair would be inappropriate.
Sensory-affective themes should be designed with sensory sensitivities in mind, not to fit the “feeling good” mentality of a “party at the end of the world.” The goal of the birthday party is not just to have fun, it is to celebrate the day with friends and family. You should consider the sensory needs of your guests and the personality of your child when choosing themes.