July 4th can be a difficult holiday for anyone with sensory struggles, especially noise sensitivities. The fireworks, the crowds, the noise, the change in routine can all trigger an autistic child, teen or adult and can cause anxiety, stress or meltdowns. But there are ways that you can help your child or loved one minimize their stress!
Every year, Autism Speaks updates their, “Tips to an Autism-Friendly Fourth of July” and we are sharing them with you here so that you are prepared.
(the following tips were written and published by autismspeaks.org. All content attribution that follows belongs to them. Read the whole post by Autism Speaks here.)
1. Prepare your child in advance. Talk about what’s going to happen at the party or fireworks display. You can show your child an online video of fireworks – perhaps playing it quietly first, then slowly turning up the volume.
2. Focus on the fun! Tell your child why you enjoy fireworks or a holiday barbecue with friends. Let them see that you’re excited to attend. This will help them get excited too. Describe the activities you know they’ll enjoy, whether it’s seeing a favorite family member or the ice cream cone they’ll get as a treat.
3. Bring along favorite items such as sensory toys, games and snacks. This can provide a crucial distraction if your child gets antsy while waiting for activities to start.
4. Create a special space for your child that is “their own” by bringing along a favorite blanket, towel or chair. Creating a defined space can help a child with autism feel more comfortable.
5. Consider bringing headphones to help block out excessive noise. As we all know, fireworks can pack a lot of sensory stimulation. Also consider sitting some distance from the display – someplace you can still see the colorful explosions, but without the intense noise.
6. Make sure your child knows how to ask for a break from the party or noise. If your child is verbal, they may only need a reminder. However, many children on the spectrum do best with a visual aids. For example, provide your child with a special card to hand to you when they need a break from the stimulation.