The Fourth of July is a time of celebration, filled with fireworks, parades, and family gatherings. However, some elements of the day can cause sensory challenges, especially for those with autism. At Behaven Kids, we understand the unique challenges that holidays can bring for autistic kids and their families.  While we are touching on the 4th and safety at our centers, here are some tips to help ensure a smooth and enjoyable Fourth of July celebration at home or wherever you celebrate! 

1. Prepare in Advance and Stick to the Schedule 

Preparation is key to reducing anxiety and building a fun celebration. Talk to your child about what to expect on the Fourth of July. Discuss nuances of the holiday such as sudden noises, bright lights, smoke and other smells in the air, and crowds of people. Use visual schedules, videos of fireworks, or other celebrations you may be attending, and share fun stories to outline the day’s events, so they know what to expect.  

2. Create a Safe Space 

Designate a quiet, safe space where your child can retreat if overwhelmed. This could be a room in your home, a tent in the backyard, or a quiet spot at the event. Ensure this space has their favorite comfort items, such as noise-canceling headphones, a favorite toy, or a calming activity.  Earplugs may be a good option for public spaces with loud noises. Having a tried-and-true option for noise blocking can be helpful. Practicing the use of different options (e.g., over-the-ear headphones, loop earplugs) would be reasonable to include in your preparation (tip #1).  

3. Plan Sensory-Friendly Activities 

Not all Fourth of July activities need to be loud and crowded. Plan some sensory-friendly alternatives, such as a small family barbecue, watching fireworks from a distance, or enjoying a patriotic movie at home. Some communities are embracing drone shows, which provide visual entertainment without the extra noise and smells. Visit this link for some fun 4th of July themed sensory crafts to try!

4. Involve Your Child in Planning 

Give your child a sense of control by involving them in planning the day. Let them choose some activities, help with decorations, or decide on the menu. This can make the day more enjoyable and less stressful for them. 

5. Know Your Child’s Limits 

Pay close attention to your child’s behavior and mood. If they start showing signs of distress, it’s important to respect their limits. It’s okay to leave an event early or skip certain activities if it means your child will be more comfortable. Prepare yourself and the rest of the family for the possibility of needing to transition, and normalize these accommodations for your child. 

6. Stay Calm and Flexible 

Your demeanor can greatly influence your child’s experience. Stay calm and flexible, and try to go with the flow. If something doesn’t go as planned, that’s okay. The most important thing is to ensure your child feels safe and supported. 

7. Have a Plan B 

Sometimes, despite all your preparations, things don’t go as planned. Have a backup plan ready, whether it’s a quiet activity to try at home or a calming routine that can help your child decompress. 

8. Bring Familiar Food and Drinks 

If you plan on going to a large gathering where food may be involved, it is a good idea to bring foods you know they like.  Trying new foods along with other unfamiliar sensory elements, may be a bit challenging or make your child feel uncomfortable.  Consider packing some of their favorites and something familiar.  

9. Safety, Safety, Safety! 

Last, and most importantly stay safe this 4th of July!  Remind your family of the dangers of fireworks and discuss safe distancing from related activities. Another important consideration is if any of your outdoor activities are near bodies of water. If so, plan for close monitoring. Tell your child to pay attention to their surroundings especially when using sparklers or even offer alternatives to fire-based activities such as bubbles, silly string, glowsticks, colored streamers, confetti, or water shooters. 

By taking these steps, you can help your autistic child navigate the Fourth of July with greater ease and enjoyment. Remember, every child is different, so it’s important to tailor these tips to fit your child’s unique needs. With a little preparation and flexibility, you can create a holiday experience that is fun and memorable for the whole family. 

Happy 4th of July from all of us at Behaven Kids!