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Tips for an Autism-Friendly Fourth of July

By Lauren Whetzel-Siburkis

fireworksFor families of children with autism or sensory processing difficulties, Fourth of July barbecues and fireworks displays can be a recipe for a meltdown. Varleisha Gibbs OTD, OTR/L, director of doctoral projects and assistant professor of occupational therapy at USciences, said a little preparation can help families avoid sensory meltdowns and uncomfortable situations:

  • Pack a sensory backpack. Items such as music and headphones for their ears, Lego toys for their hands, and chewing gum for their mouths will help calm you child down if he or she is feeling overwhelmed and needs some “me time” during the holiday weekend.  Headphones can also cancel out the sound component to the actual fireworks and has the ability to help your child become tolerate of the display.
  • Inform your guests. For relatives or friends who do not understand sensory processing disorders, or may not see your child often, speak with them beforehand about some of the unusual behaviors your child may exhibit to prevent them from being alarmed or uncomfortable during the day.
  • Enjoy quiet fireworks. Sparklers are a great way to allow your child the opportunity to see the light without the loud noise of fireworks.
  • Call ahead. Whether you’ll be staying at a hotel or with relatives or friends over the holiday weekend, call ahead to discuss sleeping arrangements, special dietary requirements, and any other concerns you might have. When choosing a hotel, inquire about building conditions or events that could bother a child with noise sensitivity.
  • Stay on schedule. Children with sensory disorders have a sensory diet they need to adhere to while away from home. For example, if a child is used to jumping trampoline each day, he or she can take a walk around a rest stop or an airport or do jumping jacks. 

Categories: News, Feature Story, Faculty, Health Tip, Samson College, Department of Occupational Therapy, Occupational Therapy