Fireworks, crowds, and family trips. When you celebrate the 4th of July with an autistic child, the things that make other people happy can set your child off. So how can you make the 4th of July awesome when your child has autism? Do you pressure your child to enter a situation that makes him or her uncomfortable, or do you get by the event unscathed? Here’s how to make the Fourth of July awesome for your family!
Keep it small. If you can, try to keep the celebration in a small place, away from crowds. If you can see the fireworks from your neighborhood, do it there. If you can drive to a place that provides you with the comfort of a small group with the view you desire, that could work too. That will decrease the noise and the stimulation. This year, we watched fireworks in my in-laws’ neighborhood and Squeaker just stayed inside. That worked out really well for us, but if you can’t do something like that…
Prepare ahead of time. Fireworks make noise. If your child has a sensitivity to noise, wearing some noise-canceling headphones might help. This might be especially helpful if you decide to go to where there’s a large fireworks display. My son will sometimes hide his face under a sheet or blanket if he cannot handle things like lightning or fireworks. Bringing something to help decrease the visual stimulation might help as well.
Provide Comfort. Give your child a comfortable place to camp out during the fireworks display. An inflatable comfortable seat, a soft blanket, and some favorite toys will go a long way toward comforting your child. If you’ve got a portable pop-up tent, it might help to bring that so that your child has something familiar to take a break in if things get too overstimulated.
Let Your Child Make Choices. So what if your child doesn’t want to look at the fireworks? If you decide to go watch fireworks, giving your child the choice of whether or not he/she wants to experience them will help prevent meltdowns. My son attempted to watch this year and just couldn’t handle it. There’s nothing wrong with that. We all have things we cannot tolerate, and I’ll give him that choice of whether or not it’s okay for him to watch fireworks.
Make an Escape Plan. Children with autism need to know what’s next and about your plans. Let your child know ahead of time what to expect and include the plans for when he/she gets overstimulated. You can choose to go for a walk, go inside if you’re at a house, camp out in the car with some music, or any number of things that provide a relief from the noise and bright lights. If you can, ask your child what might comfort him/her. Just make sure you have a plan in place for the moment your child gets overstimulated.
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You can still enjoy the Fourth of July even if your child doesn’t enjoy the show or the crowds. These small things that you do can help you and your child have a good time. So light up the sparklers, grill up some burgers, and enjoy the fireworks.