Ready for July 4th? If your family is divided about whether fireworks are spectacular or a noisy nightmare, read on. Pediatric therapist and mom Aviva Weiss shares 5 survival tips for kids of all ages, including solutions for sensory processing disorder, ADHD, autism and other special needs.
Pyrotechnics 101: Prepare and Practice
Life is more manageable when you know what to expect. Take time now to prepare and practice. For example, set aside a few minutes to make loud noises with pots and pans, or watch a fireworks video on YouTube. Then ask your child: What can we do when it feels too noisy or overwhelming?
Experiment with helpful noise-cancelling accessories like noise reduction ear muffs and SensGard ZEM. Organize a 'tasting menu' with a range of chewies to take a bite out of the stress. Squeeze fidget toys to channel stress and calm down.
Create a Comfortable Environment
Standing for long periods can increase stress, so pack some comfortable seating and reclining options. Wiggle cushions or gel seating cushions can take the edge off. Or spread out a weighted blanket, which can also be used to wrap a child, burrito-style, with deep calming compression. A light pop-up tent is portable, and gives a feeling of distance and control over the environment.
Channel Energy with a "Job"
Create a fun job that gives your child a sense of control and a clear focus to channel energy. For example, ask your child to take photos of the festivities, or draw the shapes and patterns in the firework display. Kids who like to play with shapes can use the Busy Fingers Tangram Gel Puzzle or choose from many kinds of putty, from Scented to Glo Putty.
Get Away from the Maddening Crowd
Try watching the fireworks from a distance so you can enjoy the stunning visual effects without the intense noise and crowds. Pack Fun Frames with its blue cover for a quick and easy hideout, or try the Crawl and Calm Resistance Tunnel. Park nearby so you can take a break in the car, or have a quick get-away if needed.
Remember It's OK to Be Different
Fireworks can be frightening, or a mesmerizing multi-sensory experience -- or both. It's OK to feel the range of emotions, and helpful to label the feelings too. Play a game or an activity from the Social Emotion Regulation Box to develop self-expression and empathy. Knowing your strengths and limitations, and being able to express your needs, can be the best blast of all.
Aviva Weiss is an occupational therapist, mom of six, and founder of Fun and Function, an award-winning company that designs toys and therapy tools for special needs.