I love fireworks! When Ryan was three, I was so excited to take him to his first fireworks display. The first blast erupted spraying the sky in magical colors that glowed in radiant hues and then… Ryan began screaming. We quickly exited and I thought, “Perhaps he is too young.” We tried again the next year, unsuccessfully. I finally “got it” and the following year we watched them, uneventfully, inside the club. As the years passed, we always went indoors before the first display.
For the child with ASD, the day is filled with events that could leave them feeling un-festive without preparation for the big day. I hope the tips I’ve collected along my journey help you prepare for the holiday so that your Fourth of July is full of fun!
Fun overload can easily occur on the Fourth of July and other holidays. I always suggest keeping the day simple and structured. If you get up at 7 a.m., continue to do so even on a holiday. When Ryan was young, we kept our daily routine, whether it was a holiday or not. Making a schedule for your child is also helpful. It may include: “Play in sandbox. Play on swings. Take a break.” The expected can be calming.
Bring along your child’s favorite toy or activity to any event. This might allow your child to stay busy while you are chatting with your friends and family. Ryan is very content watching the TV show “24” on his iPad.
Limit the time that you are attending picnics or social events. If your child is like many children on the spectrum, these situations may make him or her uncomfortable. You may see an increase in repetitive behaviors, such as twirling, finger waving, lining up cars, etc. This is a sign of anxiety as your child is returning to a behavior to keep the “sameness” in his/her life. If there are people attending the gathering who do not know you, I suggest printed cards noting that your child has ASD to hand out should a behavioral issue occur.
Picnic food may not be your child’s favorite, or perhaps your child is on a restricted diet. Find out beforehand what will be served so that you can come prepared with alternatives. I suggest explaining why you’re asking to the host in advance so that he/she isn’t offended, but knows that you simply wish to help your child be successful.
And for those fireworks….you can enjoy them indoors like we did, watching on TV and changing the volume on your TV to desensitize your child to the noise, or try sparklers at home.
The Fourth of July celebration can come in many forms. Take the time and select alternatives that will make it a happy holiday for both you and your child. And of course, be prepared that what worked last year, may or may not work this year. But isn’t that what makes our lives such an adventurous journey?