The Fourth of July is one of our nation’s biggest holidays, we celebrate by having outdoor activities, patriotic bands march down our streets, and fireworks that steal the night’s sky! Although all of these festive events sound like a great time, the sounds and over stimulation of the visual displays can present challenges and anxieties to those with autism. The American Autism Association has gathered several tips to help parents prepare for your Fourth of July!
1. Pick the best activity for you and your family:
No one knows your child better than you do! You know their limits, so beware of their likes and dislikes and base your choice of activities off of this knowledge. Even ask your child what they might be comfortable with, having their input will give them a sense of independence and boost their confidence!
2. Inform your child:
Let your child know about the activities that will be taking place for the Fourth of July, and explain to them why it’s a fun experience for you. You could even use this as a short and fun history lesson!
3. Prepare, prepare, prepare!:
Be sure to explain to your child about what a parade, BBQ, or fireworks show may be like. Prepare them for what they will be experiencing. Show them videos, or remind them of last year with photos!
4. Have a backup plan:
If your child does have an outburst, be sure to have an exit strategy. If you’re at the park watching fireworks, for example, have the car close by. Also, keep some type of comfort item near by to try and calm down your child.
5. Invest in a pair of headphones or earplugs:
Watching Fourth of July fireworks can be overwhelming because of the loud noises, and even a bit frightening for a child with any sensory issues. To make things a little more soothing, have a playlist of their favorite songs ready or a movie up on the iPad. They can enjoy all the scenery without the intense noises.
6. Slightly turn up the television:
If you decide to celebrate your Fourth of July from home, you’ll be watching fireworks on the T.V.. Adjust the volume to what they are comfortable with. They might like the visuals without the noise, or the ability to control the noise might be something they enjoy! If you decide on no fireworks whatsoever, turn up the volume on their favorite program – this can be very beneficial due to the comfort level that may be associated with the show.
7. Preview the show:
You never know how your child will react to something new – especially if it’s their first Fourth of July. Try watching a video of fireworks on YouTube. This can get your child acquainted with the sounds and the visuals that go along with the holiday, so when the actual time comes they’re not taken off guard.
8. Watch from a distance:
If possible, watch the fireworks from a distance. You don’t necessarily need to be close up to get the full effect. This provides the same visuals with less noise. Also, being distanced from the crowds can prevent your child from feeling overwhelmed.
9. Teach your child how to ask for a break:
If the festivities are getting to be too much for your child, have them take a break. Before the event, plan out a code word or hand gesture that allows them to communicate with you that they need a quick getaway. The very last thing any parent would want is their child to wander off because of the stress from a situation. Try to push that communication with them.
10. Stay safe!
The Fourth of July is a fun time for the family, but it’s all about safety. Remember to keep a safe distance from all flammable items – BBQs, sparklers, or even at-home fireworks!
The American Autism Association would like to wish you and your family a very happy and safe Fourth of July!