Independence Day is often a day of friends, family, and celebration, but for children with sensory processing challenges, 4th of July traditions are often defined by crowded parties, loud fireworks, hot weather, and intense visual stimuli. Children who have sensitive sensory systems, can easily get overstimulated and overwhelmed during seemingly ‘normal’ activities.
Prepare for 4th of July events by learning your child’s sensory needs, challenges, and preferences. Talk to your child about plans, using a social story or show videos and pictures from years past or what to expect. If your child benefits from visuals, use a calendar to show that something new and exciting is coming and create a schedule of holiday events. Some children may also find comfort in learning exactly how fireworks work!
Tips for 4th of July
The morning of, try to keep a close to normal routine and add consistency into the day. Let your child know it’s okay to take a break from activities if they are overwhelmed. Help them pick a predetermined safe sensory space or practice using a visual aide or code word to use when needing a breather. If you are leaving the house for 4th of July events, consider bringing the following items:
- Noise cancelling headphones or earplugs
- A preferred toy or fidget
- Water and snacks
- A fan, spray bottles, and hats
- Weighted items such as backpacks or blankets
For More Ideas Click HERE to download a list of other tips and suggestions.
Children can benefit from proprioception or heavy work to provide calming input before, during, and after overstimulating events. Complete activities such as wheelbarrow walking, joint compressions, or animal walks to provide calming input. If your child is easily startled by auditory input (especially unexpected noises), or if crowds make them anxious, pick a less crowded space to watch fireworks. You can also stay near your car in case they need to take a break.
Signs of Overstimulation
Look for signs of overstimulation such as:
- covering of eyes or ears to block out sensory stimuli
If you notice any of these signs, determine if your child needs a break or other calming sensory input.
Overall, give choices, be flexible, and have a back up plan! Actively engaging with your child during new or scary situations can go a long way. You may be their best comfort and new experiences will be more enjoyable if you model excitement and have fun together!