The fourth of July is coming and it’s a time of national celebration. It’s an excuse to barbecue, eat frosty treats, and light fireworks (if they’re legal in your state and the person who usually does them in your family or neighborhood still has both hands after last year). Fun times, right?
Not if you’re a person with Sensory Integration Disorder and fall on the Autism Spectrum. It’s not quite the blast it is for everyone else unless you help make some preparations first to ease what can be a painful series of experiences over the course of a day and evening. I’m not talking about food preparations (although that’s one aspect), but other practical preparations that can help the day go much more smoothly.
The first rule of thumb above all else is to plan for the most difficult and worst scenario, okay? Plan for the worst and hope for the best.
- Safety first. Go through safety rules and expectations before the event, and practice Wandering Prevention Safety (click here) while you’re at the events. Discuss fire safety, especially if there will be a fire pit and/or a grill and/or roasting marshmallows. Discuss pool safety. Use a script, use social stories, use pictures. But when you’re at the event, don’t rely on anyone else to keep an eye on your child as well as you will.
- When you get to your destination, make sure you A.) know where the bathroom is and B.) coordinate a Safe Room with the host and hostess to go to when your child feels overwhelmed and needs a break.
- If he communicates best in writing or on a computer or iPad or with sign language, keep that in mind while you’re out and make sure that he can communicate his needs to you effectively.
- Have an exit strategy aka escape plan in case things get too intense. Pay attention to the signs and cues that tell you there might be an oncoming meltdown. If typical soothing techniques don’t work, do your best to exit before the meltdown. If you know that the flashing and/or sounds from fireworks will trigger a meltdown, make your good-byes before they start.
- Practice ahead of time if you can at a “practice picnic” with a script so that she knows what to expect ahead of time, within reason. If you know who will be there, talk about those people and activities that you expect to be available.
- If your child,teen, young adult, adult… has a special restricted diet and/or they are self-restricting in their diet don’t count on your hosts to accommodate that diet. There will likely be food and drink available that he will like, but it’s not a guarantee. Try to bring some food and drink that you know for certain she will eat, and make sure there’s enough for three meals “just in case.” Make sure there’s plenty of liquid for drinking to avoid dehydration.
- Bring an extra dose or two of all medications.
- Bring a first aid kit including something for bee stings.
- Bring a lovey.
- Bring some activities: in our house we call them Trigger Kits and Sensory Kits. A Trigger Kit is something that has simple arts and crafts type items in it, be it paper and coloring books with crayons, colored pencils, and markers plus wet wipes, stickers, some clay or Play-Doh, and some colored beads with craft string. A Sensory Kit is a plastic Gladware or Tupperware container full of dry, raw rice or dry, raw beans for sensory play with a small hand-held object that can be buried in it and “searched” for.
- Bring a body brush. It can be a simple one specifically designed for body brushing, or you can do what we did and let your child choose his own depending on the texture of brush he likes being drawn on his arms and legs.
- If you haven’t learned already, learn how to do Joint Compressions. There are some simple guidelines you can look up on YouTube.
- Bring soft foam or rubber ear plugs. If she doesn’t like ear plugs, head phones are a good option too. These are especially important for during fireworks, but many people with Sensory Integration Disorder dislike “crowds of people” noises, loud music, chewing noises, and other sounds that occur when large groups of people gather for parties.
- If there’s swimming, get the swimmer’s ear plugs and nose plugs.
- Bring sunglasses. Bright sun can be more intense to sensitive eyes. In our case, Gracie has transitional lenses built right in to her corrective eyeglasses.
- EDITED TO ADD: I can’t believe I forgot this one, but ALWAYS bring an extra change of clothes with you. If the clothes get even the slightest bit wet or dirty, some children can’t handle it and have to be changed right away. It’s also a good idea to have several changes of underwear. 😉
- What are the signs that your child might have autism? (psychologymum.wordpress.com)
- #AutismPositivity2012 To “I Wish I Didn’t Have Aspergers” (littlefallofrain.wordpress.com)
- Get Ready for July 4th with Five Easy Tips for Kids with Special Needs from Aviva Weiss, Pediatric Therapist at Fun and Function (prweb.com)
- Remember pet saftey this fourth of July (examiner.com)