Some holidays are louder than others. All are sensory nightmares that need advance preparations but some need more specific noise related prep. You generally don’t need to prep for fireworks as well as other noise related sensory issues for holidays like Labor Day or Thanksgiving. While you should have a plan in place in case the noise level becomes a trigger, it’s not necessary to have one specific for that holiday. 4th of July and New Years are two holidays that come to mind that need a noise related sensory plan in place.
A typical 4th of July celebration will involve being outside at some point with all the sensory needs that entails. Swimming may or may not be involved. People are probably mingling about near a barbecue with children running around.
Does that sound about right? Step back to see that from a sensory perspective from someone with autism. You have the social nuances of playing with all the children . Outside where it’s hot as well as bugs abound. Sounds are magnified, smells (some good, some bad) are everywhere. Can you see how this would be problematic without some advance planning?
Let’s break it down into problem/solution, shall we?
Problem: Loud noises like children screaming and /or firecrackers
Problem: too many children to play with
Solution: For safety reasons, you should be tag teaming with someone to keep your child safe. The adult tag teaming for the child could help the child navigate the social scene with one or two children. Sometimes if I know the other children well, I will have one of them be a peer partner. I am not above paying the other child with money or toys. Listen, you do what needs to be done to make the day successful.
Problem: It’s hot outside.
Solution: I let Logan stay inside if he wants to at some point. July in Florida is brutal to say the least. He doesn’t like wet clothes. You will sweat in Florida in July. Do you see where I’m going with this? Even if this means he’s sitting in the air conditioned car for part of the time, he is not expected to stay outside for the entire event. This also helps with noise and other sensory factors when they get to be too much.
Problem: Child is overwhelmed by the many sights, sounds and smells
Solution: Make sure to build in breaks where the child can be alone or in a quiet place. You should know your child’s triggers so if you see one happening, head it off and excuse yourself. There were many years that we only attended the event for a few minutes or half an hour if we attended at all. Don’t force yourself to stay longer than necessary just to appease others. It’s always more important that your child have a positive episodic memory. ALWAYS.
These are just a few scenarios that you must prepare for in advance when you have a special needs child. You can’t just go into the situation blind as it will end in disaster every single time. A little advance prep will make your life easier at the event. Listen to me closely here. It’s ok to miss events if your child is not up to it. Don’t stress over it. Instead make some new fun family traditions at home. Some of my fondest memories of Logan’s childhood are the ones that holidays we went off the beaten path to pave our own way.