When planning your 4th of July, think about your child and their needs. Would your child enjoy themselves more at a small family BBQ or would they be ok going out to watch an entire firework show…or lastly, could they watch fireworks from the car where they aren’t faced with the crowds.
If you feel that you want to go attend a fireworks display – or a big party – here are some tips to make your day run as smoothly as possible.
1. Prepare your child in advance – As a general rule of thumb, it is very important to prepare your child with autism in advance for a major event or holiday such as 4th of July. Talk to your child about what they can expect on that day, the people, the food, the fireworks etc. Show them pictures and videos of firework shows. It is a good idea to ease them into the loud noise that comes with fireworks, so it would be good to start by letting them watch it with the sound off and then slowly increase the sound each time they watch it again, so they can get used to the noise before the actual day.
2. Bring along favorite toys games and foods – Focus on the fun of the 4th. Tell them the story of America’s independence and what we are celebrating. Explain to them that they get to eat hot dogs, burgers, ice cream or whatever their favorite American foods are. Share with them some of the fun summer games they can play during the day. Let them know that they can bring even their favorite toys, games and snacks with the to the fireworks show. This can provide a great distraction if your child gets antsy or has a hard time with the actual fireworks. Also remember you don’t need to take them into the crowds if they have a hard time with it. It’s just as nice to park your car with a view of the fireworks and away from the crowds and let your kids stand outside with you or sit in the car to watch through the window.
3. Consider making them as comfortable as possible: Bring your child a chair and a towel to create their own personal space, bring them headphones so that they can down out the noise if they need to, consider sitting somewhere distant where you can still see the fireworks display but without the intense noise.
4. Give your child a break – Make sure your child knows how to ask for a break and that you can provide him or her with a break from the noise, the crowds and all the excitement. If they are verbal, teach them to say “I need a break” and if they are non-verbal create a card, or give them an item to give you when they need a break and explain to them what it is for and when they should give it to you.
July 4th is a wonderful holiday to celebrate, but it’s also a noisy and busy one. And can cause children who have been diagnosed with autism to have sensory issues, stress related breakdowns and can issues with loud fireworks and large crowds. Handling these challenges properly can be the difference between a happy 4th of July filled with celebrations or a stressful 4th of July filled with obstacles.