Independence Day in the United States warrants plenty of celebrations, parties, and fun. However, for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), many of these festivities present challenges to the senses.
Fireworks, sparklers, loud clamors, and bright visuals can overwhelm many, leading to meltdowns, tantrums, and other challenging behaviors. For this reason, creating a sensory-friendly Fourth of July for your child with autism is a must to enjoy the day to the fullest.
ABA Centers of Florida is here to help you prepare for a stress-free holiday. We’re well aware of the many sensory-related concerns that arise with the Fourth of July festivities, and we wish to provide the proper solutions to keep the festivities smooth and fun for all. Read below to learn how to prepare yourself and your child for the 4th, especially if a party is in order.
Sensory-Related Concerns on the Fourth of July
Individuals with autism spectrum disorder commonly face challenges regulating their senses and emotions. Clinically speaking, autism spectrum disorder includes impairments in communication, social interaction, and behavioral flexibility, which can all occur from varying responses to senses. While the Fourth of July may consist of engaging and high-intensity festivities, many can wreak havoc on the stability of those with ASD.
For instance, the audible and visual assault from fireworks can trigger intense emotional disturbances, while large parties and busy social settings can quickly overwhelm someone with ASD. Many simple facets of a Fourth of July party, such as barbecues, sparklers, parades, or loud music, prove troublesome to your kiddos.
Sensory-Friendly Fourth of July: Tips for Success
There are many ways to enjoy a sensory-conscious Fourth of July, and many of these adjustments are specific to a child’s behavioral concerns. Before implementing these ideas into your plans, fully identify areas of concern and various situations or objects that can trigger a sensory-related predicament. Still, uncertainty often follows holiday plans you didn’t create, so be sure to read through these tips for a sensory-friendly Fourth of July:
1. Always Plan Ahead – We can’t stress how important it is to prepare yourself and your child for what you may expect at a Fourth of July festivity. While this notion is more straightforward when you’ve initiated the plans, you should get a complete idea of what sensory-related concerns may await if you’ve been invited to a party or gathering by another.
Feel free to ask the host about what amenities they planned. Ask if they expect to have fireworks, loud music, strong-smelling food, and other things that may present issues to your child. If they do expect to have some of these, ask if they have a schedule so you can strategize and avoid them when they occur.
2. Practice These Expected Concerns with Your Child – Now that you know what you may expect at a festivity, take some time to prepare your child for how they will celebrate in fun. Preparation tactics can include hosting a mock barbecue a few days or weeks before to mimic what they’ll see or smell at the party or watching videos of fireworks to acclimate themselves to louder sounds and allow them to anticipate them happening instead of being blindsided.
If these preparations become overwhelming, don’t force it – this gradual and individual process takes time and effort. However, if you feel your child can’t adapt to these sensory-related challenges, you may want to consider backing out of your plans. Or, at the very least, you should do everything in your power to keep your child away from these events when they happen during the day and night.
3. Keep it Short and Sweet – You aren’t required to stay for an entire party or event. If some of these sensory-related concerns occur later in the night, feel free to stop by for an hour or two at the beginning of the party and leave shortly after. If you plan to attend a picnic or barbecue, say hello, grab some food, and go when you desire. Long and exhausting days can prove troublesome to those on the spectrum, and by keeping it short and simple, you can enjoy the day without overdoing it.
4. Bring Sensory-Relieving Items – Some children with sensory concerns may only handle these expected occurrences to an extent. If you think you can attend the festivities, but your child may need additional assistance, you can benefit from bringing sensory-relieving objects. Headphones are already essential for children with ASD, and they can effectively block out loud sounds. Outdoor parties will have plenty of bright lights and sunshine, so sunglasses can help mask visually overwhelming triggers.
Packing familiar favorites is another excellent way to help your child cope with potential stress and anxiety and distract them during more challenging situations. These items can include their preferred snacks, food, drink, or even a toy or game that they enjoy and that calms them.
5. Have an Out (And Don’t Feel Bad) – You should consider making a getaway plan for your child if things get complicated during the events. Before you arrive, ask the host if they have a quiet area where you can bring your child or scout one out when you arrive. Once you have a place where you can go, establish a word or visual cue with your child that you can use to depart the scene quickly.
If you feel like your child can’t handle the environment, leaving the party is never something to be ashamed of. The host and attendees should understand your situation and support your decision. Don’t feel like you need to create an excuse; be honest and forward with your reasoning for departing. However, if you approach the host directly to explain the situation, don’t specifically mention your child so they don’t feel uncomfortable or ashamed.
ABA Therapy Can Help Sensory-Related Challenges
ABA therapy for autism is a fantastic way to help your child develop valuable coping and sensory skills. These programs teach self-management skills, mindful behavior, and controlling emotions and impulses. They also work to alleviate many of the challenges from sensory concerns through visual/perception exercises. While ABA therapy won’t cure these sensory challenges, they provide a basis to expand control over emotions and impulses which will help lower the frequency of these occurrences over time.
ABA Centers of Florida: The Gold Standard of Autism Care
At ABA Centers of Florida, our ABA therapy services provide a substantial opportunity for your child to gain valuable skills to lead a fulfilling life. We offer child, teen, and in-home ABA therapy with tailored programs to address specific needs and concerns. If sensory-related challenges inhibit your child’s ability to explore new situations and environments, don’t hesitate to reach out for a consultation.
Call us at (772) 773-1975 or visit our website for any questions regarding our ABA therapy services or to learn more about how we can help your child.