The tradition of commemorating Independence Day with fireworks is as old as the Declaration of Independence, itself. (It was John Adams’s idea to mark the occasion with “Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”)
But July 4th activities – and other summer celebrations – can offer challenges for students on the spectrum.
Autism Speaks offers the following tips for attending parties or events and fireworks displays.
- Prepare your child in advance. Talk 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. If your child responds to visual aids, you can create a story about the day with pictures or photos. Explain that there will be lots of people.
- Focus on the fun! Tell your child why you enjoy fireworks or a holiday barbeque with friends. Let him see that you’re excited to attend. 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.
- Bring along favorite items such as toys, games and snacks. This can provide a crucial distraction if your child gets antsy while waiting for activities to start.
- Have a blanket, towel or chair for your son. Creating a defined space that’s “his own” can help a child with autism feel more comfortable in a crowd.
- 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.
- Make sure your child knows how to ask for a break from the crowd or noise. If your child is verbal, he may only need a reminder. However, many children on the spectrum do best with a visual aid. For example, provide your child with a special card to hand to you when he needs a break from the stimulation.
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