July 4th: A Sensory Guide

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(Flashback to July 4, 2013)

Perhaps the most exciting celebration of the summer, July 4th is a perfect time for families and friends to get together, engage in fun activities and most likely top of the night with spectacular fireworks.

For families with children who have acute sensory issues like mine, celebrating Independence day can be stressful. There are crowds, loud noises and bright, flashing lights booming throughout the sky. What might be fun to everyone else, can be excruciating for a sensory child.

Here are my top 5 tips for creating a safe and joyful environment on this big day.

1. TALK ABOUT IT: What is Independence Day? Why do we celebrate it? Engage your child in the meaning of the holiday. What are ways different people celebrate? Look at YouTube videos and websites ahead of time (adjust the volume for fireworks but talk about the big, unexpected noises they create). Go to the library or amazon and pick out books with your child. Let them be part of the process.

2. MAKE A PLAN: I am a huge fan of visual schedules for pretty much everything. It helps to engage your child in the creation of that schedule, so that they can feel ownership in upcoming plans. Review the schedule daily and talk about ways to be flexible throughout the day.

3. HAVE A TOOLBOX OF RESOURCES: This can be a bag of activities, noise cancelling headphones, snacks or even a favorite stuffed animal. Be prepared to soothe your child during any activities that could be overwhelming.

4. BE PREPARED FOR PLAN B: Have other activities ready to go if you need to make a change but especially understand (and embrace) that sometimes plan B is an escape route / exit strategy altogether. So, my fellow amazing parents, THIS is our opportunity to BE FLEXIBLE. We try to instill this strategy into our children’s lives all the time, so now it’s our turn to be prepared to go with the flow. Note: If you have other children to take care of, go with other parents who can be responsible for them while you exit left with your child who needs to leave (and sometimes, promptly).

5. HAVE FUN: Above all, find ways to enjoy your day as much as possible. When things aren’t going your way, let it go. Breathe. If your child is showing signs of distress, step into the moment with them. Let them know that everything will be okay and that you are there to support them. Note: the majority of our 4th of July celebrations have ended with us watching the east coast feed on television, on extra low volume. Snacks for Arizona and a glass of wine for me. (Heaven, truly).

Cheers to a safe and sensory friendly holiday for you and your family! What are your GO TO strategies for making the holiday enjoyable?

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