June 29, 2018
Written by James Macon M.Ed., BCBA
The 4th of July is nearly here, and that means people all over the United States will be celebrating our nation's independence with fireworks, families, and barbecues. While most people look forward to the holiday, it an be a very difficult experience for an individual (or their family) with autism. Loud noises, explosions, bright colors, and the crowds can often be overwhelming, turning a would-be celebration into an uncomfortable (or even scary) situation. Here are some ABA tips to help ensure a safe and fun 4th of July!
1. Crowd Size
Fireworks mean big crowds of people. If your child doesn't do well with crowds, or if you're concerned about him/her running off by mistake, it might be better to take a seat a bit further back. This is also useful if you think they would like frequent breaks, will need to use the restroom, or for beating the crowds home.
2. Toys and Snacks
Bringing along personal favorites can go a long way. If your child has some favorite toys or snacks, bring them along. If they start feeling uncomfortable, these items can sometimes be enough to make them feel more comfortable.
3. Practice Beforehand
If you've never experienced fireworks before, they can be startling. It's a good idea to get some small, backyard fireworks and practice "watching" them days beforehand. That practice can look like many different things, but the goal is to ensure our kids can tolerate the noise and not feel threatened by them. If they do well with some fireworks, you can gradually try out different ones. It's also a great chance to practice safety related behavior.
4. Bring some Supports
Fireworks bring loud noises. If you're worried that they may startle your child, it may be a good idea to bring a long some noise-canceling headphones. While the headphones won't completely get rid of the noise, they certainly will help.
Communication is critical, especially while out in the community where safety can become a concern. Communicate and practice ahead of time how your child can let you know if it's "too much" for them and f they need a break or want to go home.
6. Have an Exit Plan
Before getting to the fireworks, develop a plan of what to do if things do escalate to challenging behavior. If a meltdown does occur, it can be very difficult to decide what to do on the spot. Discuss what strategies you will use what to do should you need to leave.
Last, but most importantly, remember to have fun! The holiday is meant to bring people together, and that's exactly what you should do.
For more information, or to learn more about Centria Healthcare's Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy services for children with autism, please give us a call at 855-772-8847.