Tips On How To Survive The 4th Of July


June, 2017

Parent Tips

Benjamin Duff

Benjamin Duff

Web Development Manager, AAoM

Ben is currently the Web Development Manager for Autism Alliance of Michigan and has been with AAoM since 2012. Outside of his work with AAoM, Ben and his wife, Tiffany founded Corner Pieces, a charity dedicated to aiding children with developmental disabilities in the Eastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan. When not trying to keep up with Brian, Ben can be found working at a variety of hobbies, like podcasting, comic and movie reviews and design.

The Duff’s reside in Sault Sainte Marie, MI.

Growing up 4th of July was not just the highlight of summer vacation but the entire year. There is just something special about colorful explosions painting the night sky accompanied by the big brass of John Phillips Sousa or the Patriotic taps of George Cohen that beats Santa and his army of elves any day.

Now that I’m a parent of a child with acute sensory issues accompanying his low functioning autism, celebrating the Independence of our great land, sadly, can be stressful.

Fortunately, through trial and error, my wife and I have found a few strategies and tools to help ease much of that stress.

1.Prepare: Take the week or a few days before and talk to your child about the activities surrounding the 4th. My son is nonverbal, so we will watch YouTube videos of fireworks leading up to the event. We’ve also used flash cards in the past.

2.Game plan: Create a visual schedule of the event. In our town, like many small towns, the fireworks are icing on a cake full of other activities. Ours follow a long parade through downtown. The parade can be exhausting in itself. To gear up for this long night we create a flipbook schedule using photos of floats, cars, in the parade, a photo of the block of building where we’ll sit at and finally photos of the fireworks and the location where they’ll held at. Our son gets excited when he can flip the pages. We’ve found this can help ease the progression of events and prevent breakdowns.

3. Plan An Escape Route: Events like community fireworks can become hectic, really fast. As the crowds swell, noise grows, and kids on the spectrum become prone to freak-outs. That’s why identifying an escape route to a quiet place is important. Perhaps it’s slipping back to the car to watch the fireworks, maybe there’s an alternative spot to enjoy the festivities. Pro Tip: when parking choose a location quickest to the exit, avoid the big mess getting back home.

4. Pack A Bag: Consider this bag your lifeline. Fill the bag with items your child craves, also things that can be used to distract your child’s attention if they become over stimulated. Our bag always has our flipbook schedule, popcorn, my son’s favorite blanket, toy Optimus Prime, juice boxes, iPad, and a book. In the past, we’ve covered his head with the blank shutting off the surrounding world and helping him center. We might also include a pack of gum. We have found chewing gum really helps calm him.

5. Have A Plan B: Even the best laid plans can fail. You must be prepared for the unexpected. The fire trucks were excessively loud this year, some kids lit an M80 off when you stepped out of the car, there was a huge dog that barked at us on the way to the fireworks, these are all examples of things that have set my little guy ‘off’ on our way to fireworks over the years. This is where the backup plan comes in. In the years when fireworks were a ‘no go,’ we still enjoyed the holiday. We took a drive and watched the fireworks while listening to music in the car; we watched a favorite movie while setting up a fort inside the living room; instead of seeing fireworks we got ice cream or went to a favorite spot. Planning an alternative function is also helpful as a parent. You’re not quite as let down when the original plan detours if you have a Plan B.

6. Take A Breath and Have Fun:
Holidays are about enjoying family and creating memories; remember that. While holidays will also look differently for families dealing with autism, they don’t have to be any less special. Take joy in the little things, laugh off the things that our of your control, and smile.

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