Many of us look forward to the annual hot weather holiday on the 4th of July. We anticipate the parades, BBQs, and firework displays. The traditions surrounding this day of celebration are generally fun for the whole family. However, July 4th can be nearly intolerable and overwhelming for children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) or autism.
If your child has difficulty coping with sensory stimulation, here are six tips to help them not only survive but enjoy a safe 4th of July:
1. Prepare Your Child
When making your plans for the day, make sure your special needs child understands what to expect. Talk about the fun activities but explain that there will be a lot of people and a good deal of noise. If your child responds well to visual cues, try showing them a video of a parade and/or fireworks with the volume initially turned down. Gradually raise the volume level and watch your child’s reaction.
- Try not to overdo the anticipation, as too much might be overwhelming in itself.
2. Bring Familiar Items
Favorite toys and familiar games and snacks can distract from over-stimulating sights, smells, and sounds and also supply comfort. These favorites can also be handy if your child gets antsy while waiting for a parade or firework display to begin.
3. Establish a Safe Place
A place where your child can feel safe might be a small tent, a blanket to hide beneath, or a quiet spot away from a crowd that provides relief from people and noise. Agree upon a visual cue or “safe word” that your child can use to let you know when they’re feeling overwhelmed.
4. Engage Your Child in Activities
Activities that involve the whole body or parts of the body increase attention and calm the senses. Actions like lifting, pulling, pushing, and squeezing engage the body and help to organize the nervous system.
- Involve your child in helping you prepare for the day. Preparations may involve, for example, loading the car with lawn chairs or packing a picnic basket.
5. Bring Along Noise Blocking Headphones and Sunglasses
For watching a fireworks show or just hanging out in a neighborhood where local kids will be setting off firecrackers, noise-blocking headphones can help to keep things quieter. Sunglasses can help to ease visual overstimulation and sensory discomfort from bright lights from fireworks.
6. Stay Mindful for a Safe 4th of July
It’s important to keep an eye on how your child seems to be handling the day. Even if you think you are prepared for every possible scenario, your child may still have a difficult time. Pay attention to your child’s cues, and if it’s too much, it’s probably best to remove them from the situation and go home.
Your special needs child might be ok to engage in a full day of activities. On the other hand, it might be better just to enjoy a BBQ and spend a peaceful evening at home playing your child’s favorite board game. The most important thing is to find a way for everyone in your family to have an enjoyable and safe 4th of July.
Help for Your Special Needs Child in Columbia, SC
Caring for a child with special needs can be challenging. One of Caring Healthcare’s specialties is in-home care for special needs children. We can help you give your child not just a safe 4th of July but also a happy and enjoyable rest of the year. Why not give us a call to find out how we can help you?