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5 Ways to Prepare Special Needs Children for Fourth of July Festivities

July 3,2019

It’s that patriotic time of year again! Time for the BBQs, pools, flying flags, and most importantly, fireworks. The Fourth of July is a bright, exciting holiday, but it is also a very loud holiday. The explosions of fireworks, large crowds, and overall bustle of the day may be challenging for some children on the spectrum or with special needs.

You want to avoid sensory overload, but you also want your child to experience the red, white, and blue to full effect. Keeping your child comfortable is of utmost importance. Here are a few ways to help children with special needs cope with Fourth of July festivities:

1. Watch the show from a distance and provide a safe space
Fortunately, fireworks can be viewed from many miles away and still have the same exciting visual effect! The *pop* and *bang* of the explosion will just be less intense. This will also allow you to avoid large crowds and find a secluded area for a more intimate experience. Grab a blanket or a small tent, a healthy snack, and make it a special occasion! Keeping your car close by to provide a safe space for retreat is also helpful if sensory overload does occur.

2. Bring sunglasses and noise-blocking headphones
To avoid visual overstimulation and discomfort from noise, pack a pair of sunglasses and noise-reducing headphones. Whether you are watching up close or from a distance, you can prepare for sensory input reduction if it is needed. This will also be helpful if you intend to watch the show with a crowd.

3. Bring favorite/familiar items
Invite your child’s favorite stuffed animal or toy to come along for the journey! Familiar toys, games, or snacks can offer your child a distraction from any over stimulating activity. Providing them a comfort item will give them something to turn to if they feel overstimulated by all the excitement from crowds and fireworks.

4. Find activities that allow for sensory development
Give holiday play a purpose! Just like at the We Rock gym, you can find working activities that help them develop their 7 senses. Have them engage in festival games, bike parades, or even have them help you load the car with lawn chairs and equipment for later. Actions such as pulling, pushing, lifting, squeezing, etc., all engage our senses and help in the development of them.

5. Set Expectations and be mindful of the situation
Let your child know beforehand what to expect wherever you choose to go. Many therapists refer to this as “priming”. Try showing them a video of a firework show and see how they react to determine if it is something that you feel is safe exposing them to. Let them know how long the event, parade, or firework show will last so they feel more control over the situation. If at any time they feel overwhelmed, give them the option to opt-out. Know the cues and triggers and be prepared to change the environment if necessary.

Your child may or may not be prepared to engage in a full day of celebration. Luckily, we live in a vibrant, active city that provides a variety of options for celebrating. Most celebrations will end the night with a firework show, but there are plenty of exciting things going on throughout the day. Here is a list of some family-friendly activities happening in the Los Angeles area this Thursday, July 4th:

Grand Park + The Music Center’s 4th of July Block Party 2019
3 pm – 9 pm
200 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90012

This family-friendly celebration is hosted at Grand Park downtown and is completely FREE! The day will begin at 3 pm and will feature tons of fun activities like picnicking, games, music, arts & crafts, and local food vendors.

4th of July Community Festival and Fireworks Show
11 am – 9 pm
Exposition Park, 700 Exposition Park Dr., Los Angeles, CA

For those who would like to start the day a bit earlier, Exposition Park will be hosting an event for the community beginning at 11 am. Grab your picnic baskets and get pumped for a day of live music, delicious food and activities for the entire family to enjoy together. This outdoor celebration will feature contests and prizes, face painting, a rock climbing wall, and inflatable jumpers. Get your sensory development on and join LA families at Exposition for this active jamboree!

2019 Great American 4th of July Kids Bike Parade
Begins at 10 am
Granada Beach Parking Lot, in front of Rose’s Dog Beach, 1 Granada Ave, Long Beach, CA 90803

For a more interactive activity for those outgoing children, the nonprofit Community Action Team (CAT) will host a bike parade for children to participate the morning of. This will be a crowded event but is free and open to ALL children. The bike parade will begin at 10 am and begins at Rosie’s Dog Beach and head east through Long Beach. Please note there are activities prior that will require registration.