Parents of children on the Autism spectrum sometimes have an extra hard time when holidays roll around, and the Fourth of July is one of the hardest because of the extra noise and excitement that can be in the air. Some children may be unable to deal with fireworks, bouncy castles, or even family bar-be-ques. There are, however, some ways to help the children deal with all the new sights, smells, and sounds that might otherwise overwhelm them.
The Autism Society of America provided some advice from Cathy Pratt, Ph.D., BCBA, one of the members of the Autism Society’s Panel of Professional Advisors.
One of the most important things to remember is to prepare a social story for children who are potentially going to something new or something that will change their rigid schedules (if that’s a problem). One Place for Special Needs and Daily Autism Freebie both provide social stories that parents can use, but parents can also create their own, using pictures or clip art to help go along with the story they tell.
If the events are somewhere that the child is unfamiliar with, and/or if food that the child refuses due to sensory or other medical issues is provided, then it’s a good idea to bring a backpack with comfort items (stuffed animals, toys, magazines, hand-held video games or iPads) and food and drink that will help the child to transition.
Be careful of new dangers. If the event is going to include swimming or a grill, it might be necessary to be extra vigilant to keep the child from harm. Some children on the Autism spectrum may not realize how dangerous water and fire really are, and they may act as though they were fearless or immune from harm. It’s important to keep an eye on them, and be ready to leave if things are too dangerous for them.
Finally, if things are too loud and overwhelming, noise-cancelling headphones can be used to minimize the sounds from the fireworks or crowds. CNET provides a review of “the best” noise-cancelling headphones, but parents can also shop at local stores or even through Amazon. Some of them are expensive, but it’s possible to find less expensive options. Another option is noise reduction ear muffs, which can be found at specialty websites, such as National Autism Resources for as low as $19.95.
The holidays are a time for family, and just because a family member has a disability doesn’t mean that he or she has to be left out. By planning ahead, everyone can enjoy the Fourth of July.