The 4th of July is often associated with fireworks, hot dogs, BBQs and time spent with family. Some of these experiences and environments might pose sensory challenges for children on the spectrum. ABS Kids has some tips to offer you to make this special day one your entire family can enjoy together! Remember, your dedicated behavior intervention team is here to help! Make sure to take advantage of their expertise in working through difficult behaviors, ask questions as they come up and plan ahead to help your family have a great holiday weekend!
How to Make Fireworks More Sensory Inclusive
- Prepare your child in advance for what will happen at the fireworks. Explain the details from the beginning, the first firework, to the end, when the sky will clear, and the noise will stop. Several nights before the actual event, it is suggested you watch some videos on YouTube showing specifically what fireworks are.
- Next, it will be fun to go out in the front yard and set off some fireworks so your child can experience them firsthand without the crowds. (1)
- The night you are leaving for the fireworks display, try to arrive just moments before the activities begin. Your child will not have a long "waiting" period. You can always enjoy other activities if you have extra time, such as playing a game, singing songs, or appreciating one of your child's favorite activities.
- If there is a lot of space in the area, a small pop-up tent can also offer great rewards. If your child is showing nervousness, you can enter the tent and relax. If the tent has a window, you might decide to watch the fireworks from inside. Your child may eventually want to leave the tent and sit outside. Eventually, they might want to return to the tent, so be prepared to crawl back inside. The tent can offer great support to you and your child no matter what happens.
- If your family is going to a public display, try to watch the fireworks from a distance. If you believe the fireworks might be too much for your child to experience, you might decide to watch the beautiful colors from the comfort of your home. Or you might consider driving close to the display and watching the fireworks from inside your car. It will help to minimize the sensory input. If your child is overly sensitive, you will probably see your child covering their ears to drown out the sound. You could help them by using noise-canceling headphones in this situation. Since bright lights can stir up sensory discomfort, you might also consider having a pair of sunglasses to help.
- Do not forget your "care package." It can be a lifesaver. Inside the package, have some of your child's favorite snacks and games or toys. Having your child's preferred activities can offer the perfect distraction if they have difficulty with the fireworks. There are times, despite all the preparation which has gone into a planned exercise, when your child with autism still is not ready for a new activity. Fireworks may be one of these times. Your Plan B might be as simple as leaving the activity, returning to your car, and returning home. (2)
With all of your planning and preparation, your child may still become overwhelmed. If so, attend to them immediately and don't worry about how other crowd members might react. If it is time to leave the crowd and the fireworks, remember that you and your child experienced success simply because they tried! You can always find other fun ways to spend time together as a family. If you run into any unexpected issues, be sure to tell your dedicated behavior analyst. They will be able to help your child gain skills that will help them better enjoy and access the world around them for future events. We hope you have a happy and safe 4th of July!
(1) Prepare your child for fireworks
(2) 7 Tips on How to Enjoy Fireworks for Children with Autism