Many of us look forward to the Fourth of July every year because we remember it as a really fun holiday where all of our friends and family get together for a barbecue, a parade, camping, or even a day spent on the lake. The food is especially nostalgic – pies, ice cream, barbecue, and corn on the cob! But we all anticipate the grand finale to this wonderful holiday – the fireworks show.
However, this holiday is extremely noisy and crowded, especially if you go to community events at a park, the local pool, or a sporting event. For children on the autism spectrum, the Fourth of July can be overstimulating and stressful. What this does not mean is that it’s impossible for families with children on the autism spectrum to go out and enjoy the holiday
with their loved ones!
Here are some tips on how to make the Fourth of July autism-friendly:
1. Understand your child’s limits.
First things first, pick an activity that is within your child’s limits. No one knows that better than a parent! Base your decision off what they’ll be able to handle and avoid events or activities that you know will be overstimulating. This can include going to the actual parade, festival, or a firework show, or it can simply mean participating from a distance or celebrating the holiday at home.
2. Children with autism respond well to a routine and predictability.
Don’t shield them from the Fourth of July, rather tell your child what they can expect will happen – loud and sudden noises, bright lights in the sky, smoke in the air, and crowds of people. It may help to show videos or images prior to your outing of the fireworks show, parades, or people celebrating the holiday. This gives your child the opportunity to visualize the expectation.
3. Make sure that your excitement for the holiday resonates with your child!
You want them to be just as excited about the holiday as you are, so tell them stories of the yummy food, friends, and activities. Explain to them that it has the potential to be overstimulating, but the Fourth of July can be an autism-friendly holiday.
4. Create a zone only for your child.
Bring along a chair, a blanket, pillows, or anything else that will establish a clear space in which your child with autism can claim as their own. Tell everyone else in your group as well! This can ease their discomfort of being in a new environment with new people, as well as establish a sense of comfort.
5. Bring familiar foods and drinks.
This is always a good idea for any family whose child with autism has particular preferences in food and drinks. In case you and your family go to a party or barbecue where there will be new foods and you know your child will be put off from trying those items, bring along something that is familiar and a favorite of theirs!
6. Bring distractions.
In case the family barbecue or fireworks show becomes too much for your child with autism, bringing headphones, a blanket, toys, or any other familiar activity can be the distraction your child needs.
7. Plan B.
In case things go awry and the Fourth of July festivities do become overwhelming for your child with autism, always have a Plan B. Park your car close to where you and your family sit for the show, parade, or barbecue so you can make a quick exit. This goes along with the previous tip, but also bring something that will calm your child in case they make an outburst – a blanket, headphones, or their favorite toy.
It’s also a good idea to establish a signal between you and your family members for when your child with autism is ready to leave. This can either be by having your child tell you explicitly, share a safe word, or if your child is non-verbal, then setting a hand signal prior that will let you know when to exit.
8. Safety First!
Last but not least, stay safe this Fourth of July. It’s important to remind yourself and your family that fireworks, albeit are mesmerizing, are highly dangerous, flammable, and could hurt you. Tell your child to pay attention to their surroundings and to keep a distance from the fireworks. Sparklers can be just as dangerous as the large fireworks in the sky, but there are other options that are just as fun for your child to play with!
- Glow sticks
- Silly string
- Colored streamers
- Confetti or party poppers
For more information on safety tips for this Fourth of July, visit the National Safety Council’s site.
The Fourth of July Can Be Autism-Friendly
Even with the Fourth of July being one of the most stimulating holidays in America, it does not have to be something that you and your loved ones avoid and dread. With modifications and preparations ahead of time, it can be an autism-friendly holiday so you can create an enjoyable and memorable experience for your child. For more tips on how to make summer activities enjoyable and safe for your child with autism, visit Carmen B. Pingree and read our blogs where we have shared our knowledge and experience!