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Tips for Celebrating the 4th of July with a child with autism

usa-1458362What comes to your mind when you think of the Fourth of July? Fireworks, barbeques, festivals, and spending time outdoors – sounds fun, doesn’t it? For most people it can be an exciting time of celebration. However, for some children with autism and their families, the 4th of July can be quite overwhelming.  Between crowded festivals, late nights, changes in typical daily routines, loud and unexpected sounds from fireworks, crowded barbeques, a wide variety of foods (possibly non-preferred foods), and the summer heat, the 4th of July can pose challenges. But, you need not fear! Here are some tips on how to make the most of your 4th of July weekend:

1) Plan Ahead

  • Have a game plan of the day’s activities in order to communicate to your child what to expect. This may be in the form of verbally telling your child the schedule, having a visual schedule, or through the use of social stories. Some children respond well to watching videos of activities they may engage in.
  • Think proactively about your child’s preferences and tolerance to certain activities. For example, if you know your child is affected adversely by the heat, plan to:  take indoor breaks throughout the day, dress your child in light clothing, bring a portable fan or spray bottle, and don’t forget the sunscreen!
  • If your child is particular with what he or she eats, consider bringing your child’s food of choice with you.
  • If your child uses communication supports or a device, be sure to bring that along so your child can effectively communicate with you.
  • Be sure to have preferred items or comfort items on hand. Some children have a particular toy or activity that may help to soothe them or aid in waiting during downtime.

4th-of-july-2005-4-15474292) Fireworks

  • If your child is sensitive to loud or unexpected sounds, try bringing noise reduction headphones or earplugs.
  • If this is your child’s first time seeing fireworks, it may be helpful to have them watch a video so they know what to expect.
  • Consider viewing the fireworks from a further distance so the sound is not as amplified.

3) Escape Plan

  • Communicate to your child to let you know when they need a break. This can be done by verbally reminding your child, use of a social story or having access to communication supports such as break cards.
  • Scope out appropriate break places in the environment that are free from crowds and easy to access.
  • Read your child’s cues to know when you may need to prompt your child to take a break.
  • If you have another child or children, have a contingency plan in place in the event that your child with autism is unable to partake in all the activities.
  • Know when you have done your best and it is time to “call it a day”

Always keep in mind that every child and family is different. So, pick which tips work for you and have a Happy 4th of July!

by Megan Ziomek-Feldman, BCBA & Region Lead for AHSS



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