The Fourth of July can be a wonderful, jubilant celebration in the US, with parades, outdoor barbeques, and of course, fireworks. Each of these fun activities can cause a lot of discomfort for those with sensory difficulties, so here are some ideas to help the sensory-sensitive people in your life enjoy the Fourth!
Discussing what your Fourth of July celebration will entail will help those with sensory difficulties know what to expect. Discuss who will be there, where the celebration will be and what the experience might be like. For fireworks, watch some YouTube videos of fireworks to get an idea of what this may feel and look like, and read up (together) on how fireworks work.
2. Give choices & have a back-up plan
Be prepared to provide some choices of what to see and experience, and have a back-up plan. For example, if you go to a a fireworks display for the first time, choose to watch from an area where you have an easy exit in case it feels too intense. If you are at a parade, sit where you can escape the crowds if necessary. Know where some further away places are to watch from.
3. Sensory Tools!
Noise-reducing headphones and earplugs can really help with the noise of fireworks or a loud parade, and squishy sensory toys can reduce stress. If you are hosting a celebration, have some quiet spaces available that are not right in the mix of things. Bean bags, pillows and blankets in a quiet corner can be a great retreat for anyone that gets overwhelmed.
4. Make it easy to ask for a break
Make sure those with sensory sensitivities know how to ask for a break – who to ask, access to visual aids, or letting them know where to go to take a break. A code word or gesture also works well to be more discreet if preferred.
5. Be flexible
Remember it takes courage to try new things! Be flexible and allow for plans to change if the celebration becomes overwhelming.