July 4th celebrations are hard to enjoy for many families with an autistic child. Lights and sounds from fireworks, parades, crowds and unfamiliar places go hand in hand with many Independence Day activities making them not friendly for people with autism. But there are steps families can take to enjoy the July 4th celebrations. Here are a few ideas.
Familiarise your child with new locations and people
Decide what event your family wants to attend. Since unfamiliar places and people cause anxiety in children with autism, check out the place with your child beforehand. Let your child explore the area and become familiar with it.
If you are joining friends or family, introduce your child to these people ahead of the event. If you cannot do it in person, use photos. Tell your child a little bit about each individual, so they won’t seem strange when your child sees them again.
Anticipate and prepare for problems
Anticipate any problems your child may encounter at your July 4th celebrations and bring what you can to resolve them. For example, if your child is a fussy eater, bring along food that he will eat.
Bright lights and loud noises may bother your child. Bring ear protectors or headphones, and dark glasses, so your child can block the noise and light. If you think your child can’t handle the crowds and noise, find a place to watch fireworks or a parade from a distance or on television.
Arrange a quiet place for your child to go when he needs a break. If you are celebrating outside, bring a small tent for your child. If you are going to a friend or relative’s home, call the host in advance and ask for a room to use as a quiet place for your child. Make this place comfortable for your child with a chair, blanket and some of his favourite toys.
All children have the potential to wander off, and this applies especially to those with autism. Ensure that an adult who is not drinking alcohol is in charge of supervising your child. If you have a monitoring device, use it. Explain to your child exactly where he is allowed to go.
When you get to your celebration, find a good spot for meeting up. Tell your child to go to this location if you are separated.
Have a safe and enjoyable Fourth of July!