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A Pediatric Perspective

Sensory Friendly 4th of July

Published July 1, 2014 10:38 AM by Wendy Spoor-Hof
This upcoming weekend can be a very difficult one for children who have sensory integration challenges.  Some children love the colorful explosions of the fireworks as they burst open in the air and the loud *bang* that, although they knew it is coming, still scares them. For other children the bright colors hurt their eyes and the loud noises their ears.  The crowds that gather to watch the fireworks are too loud, too close, and too sensory overwhelming for them to enjoy anything about the event. Thankfully there are things that can be done that would allow for a sensory friendly 4th of July experiences.

The first option is to, of course, stay home and enjoy the firework displays that are shown on T.V. You can dim the lights in the room you're watching the television and, depending on your child, turn up or turn down the volume. Several TV stations will usually offer viewing of the firework displays going on in different cities. Check your local TV listings for which ones are being offered in your area. 

If you want your child to experience the fireworks outside of the home be sure to bring along items that will help them to enjoy them. If they are sensitive to loud noise, bring along ear plugs or headphones. You don't need to be too fancy. There are a variety of inexpensive ear plugs to choose from that will help drown out the loud noises. Some kids prefer the bigger headphones. (Disclaimer: I use Amazon in links for no other reason than they offer a variety of options in one screen shot. Doing a Googlesearch will come up with other options for purchasing the particular one you may choose.)

If your child is more sensitive to the light you can bring along a pair of fun sunglasses for them to wear when the firework display starts. If they don't like wearing sunglasses a wide brimmed hat or a baseball cap would work to shield some of the display when worn down lower on their heads. Some of the younger children prefer their favorite blanket to cuddle with so they can bring it up over their eyes during the "scarier" light displays.

In years past several movie theaters have offered a sensory friendly viewing of fireworks in one of their theaters.  Just like when they show their sensory friendly movies the fireworks are offered in a theater that is dimmed slightly and with a lower noise level than typical. I have tried searching to see if I can find any listings for this year but sadly I have not been able to come up with any options to offer here. I would suggest, however, to call your local movie theater and see if they may be offering a sensory friendly fireworks viewing.

Social stories to share what to expect and trying to visit the place where the fireworks will be held before hand are also ways to help children who may have a hard time get more comfortable with the experience. As crowds can vary it is hard to say if getting there first and finding a quiet place to sit will work or if getting there later and finding a spot that isn't already crowded (on the fringe of the crowd) may be more effective. Regardless of where you may end up watching the display please be sure to have a game plan to leave if the experience becomes too much for your child. There is nothing worse than getting stuck somewhere with a child who is overwhelmed and melting down. Thankfully if you take the steps before hand to try and prevent this from happening you may just end up with a lovely evening spent watching the fireworks with your family - whether it is being outside and part of the crowd or being inside in your own home in a dark room and watching the display on the T.V. -

May your 4th of July be a sensory free one of beautiful and colorful fireworks that light up your evening.


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