7 Powerful Tips for Planning Playdates for Children with Autism

By Brianna Fitchett, MA, BCBA of

Playdates are an important part of childhood. They’re an opportunity to have fun, build friendships, and try new activities. For kids with autism and other developmental disabilities, playdates can be both a challenge and an opportunity to develop their social skills.

Planning Playdates for Children with Autism

Relationships that grow out of playdates can turn into lasting friendships that help your child navigate the ups and downs of the classroom and the playground. If you and your child are new to organizing playdates with other children, it’s natural to be a little nervous. Here are some tips to help you plan an enjoyable event:  

Select Compatible Playmates:

Look for classmates or neighbors familiar with your child and have shown understanding and patience toward their unique needs. Start small, with just one other child. That will make planning easier and will increase the chances that your child forms a bond with the other child. Look for kids with similar interests and who like the same activities as your child to make it more likely everyone will enjoy the experience.

If the kids haven’t met before, or if it’s been a while since they last spent time together, consider having them meet virtually via a quick video call a day or two before the playdate to get them comfortable with one another. 

Let Your Child Know What to Expect:

Before the playdate, tell your child how the playdate will unfold to reduce their anxiety. Visual aids, like calendars or social stories, can help them understand how the event will occur.

If they are verbal, talk them through it. “We’ll drive to the park. There will be lots of trees and grass. We’ll sit on a blanket and meet with Tina and her dad.” Let them know the rules and guidelines to ensure everyone is on the same page. “Tina may want to play with some of your toys. If you want to play with her toys, you can ask her if she’s OK with that.” 

Choose a Comfortable Location and Time:

If possible, pick a location your child already knows, especially if the playdate involves meeting new people – children or adults. Avoid meeting at your home, especially for a first-time playdate, to make it easier to end it early, if needed. Try to schedule the playdate when your child is at their best – after a nap or meal – or when they are most resilient. 

Bring Engaging Activities:

Plan activities aligned with both children’s interests and sensory preferences to keep them engaged and enthusiastic. If they like cars, bring car-themed coloring books and toys. If they like plants, consider visiting a park or botanical garden. 

Communicate with the adults:

Be open with the other child’s parents or caregivers by sharing your child’s preferences, triggers, and communication style. Transparency is key. Let them know in advance that you might need to end the playdate if challenges arise – and that there’s nothing to feel bad about if you do. Make sure they know it’s OK to end the playdate early, too, if needed.  

Organizing Playdates for Children with Autism: Tips for Success. Helping Kids with Autism Navigate Playdates and Build Friendships. Helpful Tips and Strategies

Balance Supervision and Independence:

Let the other child’s parents or caregivers know how much supervision your child needs so they know what to expect. If your child needs you to participate actively in the playdate, provide support and positive reinforcement, and let the other adults know to avoid surprises. If your child is more independent, let the other adults know it’s OK to allow the children space for independent interaction.

Plan for a Smooth Exit:

Keep the first playdate short. There’s no set time for a playdate, so start with 30 minutes or whatever length you think will work for your child. Have a contingency plan ready to end it early if challenges arise.

Playdates for Children with Autism

A final tip: try to enjoy the playdate. You deserve to have fun. And if you’re having a good time, that makes it more likely the kids and other adults will, too.

The post 7 Powerful Tips for Planning Playdates for Children with Autism first appeared on The Mom Kind.

This content was originally published here.