Tips for an Autism-Friendly Fourth of July

June 30, 2020

July 4th is a wonderful holiday to celebrate, but it’s also a noisy and busy one. This can present challenges for people on the autism spectrum. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic will make this year's holiday especially complicated. Many celebrations may be cancelled or social distant, and mask-wearing rules should be in effect for events that do happen, but that doesn’t mean we cant enjoy the day!

However you celebrate this year, we have compiled some helpful tips for families who plan to attend a fireworks display:

1. Prepare your child in advance. Talk about what’s going to happen at the party or fireworks display. You can show your child an online video of fireworks – perhaps playing it quietly first, then slowly turning up the volume.

If your child responds to visual aids, you can create a teaching story about the day with pictures or photos. Explain that if there are lots of people, social distancing should still be observed. This helpful video can help your child practice wearing a mask in public. 

2. Focus on the fun! Tell your child why you enjoy fireworks or a holiday barbecue with friends. Let them see that you’re excited to attend. This will help them get excited too. Describe the activities you know they'll enjoy, whether it’s seeing a favorite family member or the ice cream cone they'll get as a treat.

3. Bring along favorite items such as sensory toys, games and snacks. This can provide a crucial distraction if your child gets antsy while waiting for activities to start.

4. Create a special space for your child that is "their own" by bringing along a favorite blanket, towel or chair. Creating a defined space can help a child with autism feel more comfortable.

5. Consider bringing headphones to help block out excessive noise. As we all know, fireworks can pack a lot of sensory stimulation. Also consider sitting some distance from the display – someplace you can still see the colorful explosions, but without the intense noise. 

6. Make sure your child knows how to ask for a break from the party or noise. If your child is verbal, they may only need a reminder.  However, many children on the spectrum do best with a visual aids. For example, provide your child with a special card to hand to you when they need a break from the stimulation. Watch a DIY video on creating your own communication cards.

7. Make sure safety is a priority. Check out “Stay Safe This July 4” from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Practice social distancing when in public and wear a mask to protect yourself and others. If your child has sensory issues, this video can help. 

For information and resources relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, visit our coronavirus homepage.