Choosing A Birthday Cake For An Autistic Child: What You Need To Think About

Posted on: 1 February 2016

Some parents might imagine that it's easy to plan a birthday party for an autistic child, but the condition presents many challenges, several of which can make it difficult to plan and hold an enjoyable event. Even individual components like the birthday cake are sometimes tricky when you're dealing with an autistic child. Find out why a birthday cake could become an issue, and consider some of the ways you can make sure this treat goes down well.

How many children does this apply to?

Experts estimate that at least 1 Australian child in every 63 has autism, and the condition is increasingly common. Children with the condition can suffer from a wide range of symptoms, and autism can make it difficult to communicate, socialise and interact with other people. What's more, children with autism are often hypersensitive. For these children, the slightest stimulation can cause severe anxiety. As such, you can see how a birthday party could become a source of great stress.

What makes a 'good' cake for an autistic child?

Autism affects children in different ways, so there are no hard and fast rules, but it's important to consider various aspects of the cake's design.

You should consider:

  • The texture. Some autistic children may not like the texture of thick icing or unusual toppings. Simplicity is often the best way forward. A soft, creamy topping is less likely to unsettle a child with autism.
  • The design. If an autistic child has a favourite character, a themed birthday cake could work well, but you should always check with the parents. A popular, well-known character may have unfortunate associations for an autistic child, so you may prefer to go for a safer, more traditional, basic design.
  • Ingredients. Autistic children are often more sensitive to food allergies. As such, it's important to consider what goes into the cake. Gluten, soy, corn and egg allergies can all have a serious effect on an autistic child, so think carefully about the recipe.

A professional bakery will often offer a wide range of options for birthday cakes. Even if you are ordering a 'standard' cake, talk to the baker about any special considerations he or she needs to make for an autistic child.

Is a cake a good idea?

Some parents will opt not to have a birthday cake. The high sugar content of a birthday cake can have a severe effect on any child, let alone one with autism, so some parents completely steer away from the idea of a cake. Other sweet treats like fruit, ice cream or fruit sorbet are sometimes a good substitute, and parents must apply their judgement according to what they know about their child.

Autism affects thousands of Australian children, and it's important to consider the effect the condition can have in certain situations. Carefully think about your options when choosing a birthday cake for an autistic child, and make sure he or she has a day to remember for all the right reasons.