Tips for a Sensory-Friendly 4th of July

June 30, 2018 by Cheryl Proska in Care Management, For Individuals, Health and Wellness, Special Needs Care

tips for avoiding sensory overload this Independence Day

For most people, 4th of July firework displays are a magical experience. For those with sensory processing disorders, they can be a nightmare — quickly leading to stress, overwhelm, and meltdowns.

Sensory processing disorder (SPD) is a “condition in which the brain has trouble receiving and responding to information that comes in through the senses.” Because of this, people with SPD commonly have an oversensitivity to things in their environment — such as tags on the inside of clothing or loud sounds. SPD is seen largely in Autism Spectrum Disorders, Asperger syndrome, extreme ADHD, and other neurodevelopmental disorders.

Here are some tips for avoiding sensory-overload this 4th of July.

Prepare for the day.

At the start of the day, talk to your loved one about what will happen at these events. Be realistic about noise, people and other activities that will be going on. Consider using YouTube videos of fireworks to provide visual cues. Setting clear expectations ahead of time can really help prepare them.

Pick and choose.

Independence Day is much more than fireworks — it’s a full day of activities that can easily lead to overstimulation. Consider limiting your loved ones sensory exposure. Pick one or two events to attend, and leave the space in between as time to “recharge their batteries.”

Offer familiarity.

When sensory-overload hits, familiar toys, snacks, and/or objects can help provide comfort and distraction. Pack a few of their favorite things from home to have on standby — just in case.

Help reduce stimulation.

Are the flashes too bright? Is the boom too loud? Help reduce the stimulation by bringing along sunglasses and noise-canceling headphones. or earplugs You can find both relatively cheap at your local drugstore.

Establish a safe place.

If it gets to be too much, have a safe space where your loved one can go to decompress or cool down. This can be anything from a blanket to a small tent, or a designated spot away from noise and people. It may also be helpful to discuss a getaway plan in case they truly feel they want to leave.


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