Sensory-Friendly Fourth of July7/1/2021 By Jessica Schwaeble
As summer begins there are many opportunities for fun and festive family activities. The Fourth of July is a fun holiday to celebrate America’s birthday with family and friends. However, The Fourth of July is definitely a noisy and busy holiday full of activities, from summer cookouts, parades, swimming and fireworks. It’s important to recognize the sensory friendly needs your child with Autism Spectrum Disorder benefits from. After recognizing what sensory friendly accommodations your child would positively benefit from you can take certain preventative steps to create a fun sensory-friendly Fourth of July, so everyone can have a great time!
The organization Autism Speaks has 7 great tips on creating a Sensory-Friendly environment on the Fourth of July:
1. Focus on the fun! Share with your child why you enjoy this celebration. You might want to talk about the fireworks display, a holiday barbecue with family or a day at the pool with friends. Let him see that you’re excited to attend the event and this will help him get excited, too. Describe the activities you know he’ll enjoy, whether it’s seeing a friend or the ice cream cone he’ll get as a treat.
2. Prepare and talk to your child in advance about what to expect. Talk to your child about what’s going to happen at the party or fireworks display. You can show him an internet video of fireworks – perhaps playing it quietly first, then slowly turning up the volume, explaining the noise will be loud. If your child responds to visual aids, creating a story about the day with pictures or photos can help your child to transition and get excited about the holiday. If you expect a crowd make sure to explain to your child that there will be a lot of people to help them prepare.
3. Consider bringing headphones to help block out excessive noise. Holiday fireworks can pack a lot of sensory stimulation! If your child has never watched fireworks before, consider watching fireworks on YouTube to prepare them for what to expect and to get them excited. You may also want to sit further away from the display. Look for a spot where you can enjoy the festivities while minimizing loud noise.
4. Pack favorite items such as toys, games and snacks. These can serve as comfort items from home to help ease the transition to a new environment. This can provide a helpful distraction if your child gets antsy while waiting for activities to start and can provide some fun.
5. Have a blanket, towel or chair for your child. Creating a defined space that is “their own” can help a child with autism feel more comfortable in a crowd.
6. Make sure your child knows how to ask for a break from the crowd or noise. If your child is vocal, she may only need a reminder to ask. However, many children on the spectrum do best with a visual aid. For example, if your child is non-vocal you could provide your child with a special card to hand to you when she needs a break from the stimulation.
7. Safety is the number one priority. If you plan to be with a large group consider having a plan with your family on how to best enjoy the holiday and adapt the plan as needed to keep your child safe and make the most of the celebration.
With these tips and tricks your family can prepare for a more sensory-friendly Fourth of July. If your child works with a BCBA be sure to ask them for strategies that may help. Applied Behavioral Analysis Therapy can help your child transition across a variety of environments while having fun.
Have a Happy Sensory-Friendly Fourth of July!!