Watch the Autism Society of Texas on Spectrum News Austin here to see tips on celebrating July 4th and see our suggestions below!
Preparing for July 4th!
1.Plan something that will work for your loved one with autism! Consider what you think your child or teen can handle & pick your activity accordingly. Take into consideration bedtime, crowds, loud noises, and think about what your options are. A family picnic or neighborhood parade might be more enjoyable than fireworks. Also consider watching fireworks from a distance if your child is noise-sensitive!
2. Prepare for the activity! Set your loved one up for success! Whether it’s a parade or fireworks (or both!) discuss it, but more importantly, make a simple story about the activity that explains the who/what/when/where of your activity, and how that will impact the child or teen and what they can do in the situation. The story should have simple descriptions and pictures. Include any fun parts of the day as well as potential scary things and what the individual can do if they feel scared or overwhelmed. How can they take a break? Do they know how to communicate that? You can google pictures from past events if it’s an annual activity like a local fireworks display or a parade. If there’s any videos from past years, show the video too!
3. Bring items to help with sensory issues. Noise reducing or noise canceling headphones can be a life-saver. Try them at home first and make sure your loved one knows they can wear them if needed. Older children, teens and adults may be fine wearing ear plugs. Include this in your story! If light-sensitivity is an issue, offer sunglasses.
4. Bring electronic devices, toys & snacks! Bring things to do and warn about the wait if there will be one! Bring snacks, toys, and activities to do while waiting! Include this in your story! Make sure electronic devices are charged, and if the person uses one for communication, practice how they will let you know if they need a break or need to leave.
5. Have an escape route & pick your location wisely! If you’re doing something that has the potential to be overwhelming, discuss in advance (with other adults attending) how you’re going to remove your child from the situation if things don’t go well. Decide in advance who will leave with the child. You may also want to sit somewhere that is easy to exit from. For kids who are really high energy pick somewhere your child can run or jump around while waiting for the activity.
6. Don’t be afraid to try new things! With preparation and practice, you can accomplish more & more! Over time your loved one with autism may become more comfortable with events and celebrations. When you provide sensory accommodations, breaks, and an exit strategy, it will make your loved one feel less anxious about trying the activity so they can enjoy the fun along with everyone else!