Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Fourth of July fun for kids and teens with sensory needs

Our town has a fireworks display in the park every year. Families spread out blankets and chairs across the lawn and picnic until the display starts. We have never been one of them—well, not all together, anyway. Max cannot handle fireworks. While he's outgrown a lot of his sensitivity to noise, they are still too loud for him to handle when he's nearby, even though he's interested in them.

Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanukah, Easter, the Fourth of July: whatever the holiday, it can be hard on children and teens with disabilities. Routines get upset, there's a whole lot of hustle and bustle and, come the Fourth, crowds, loud noises and flashing lights. These times can be challenging for us parents, too, as we have to uproot ingrained ideas of what a "great" holiday means.

Like other families with children who have sensory needs, we've found that the best way to celebrate is with alterna-traditions. We've watched the fireworks on TV and had ice-cream. In other years, Sabrina and I went to the park while Dave parked the car blocks away from the park and he and Max watched from there. Last year, the two of them sat in town outside the fro-yo shop; they basically had the street to themselves because everyone was in the park. Max downed his usual fix (chocolate and vanilla swirl) and watched the sky light up.

Some parents find that noise-cancelling headphones do the trick, even better if you can play music through them. Some just do drive-bys. Others celebrate with sparklers at home. Whether or not you have a child with special needs, there's a lot to be said about staying in. As my Facebook pal Rick puts it, "Usually the Boston fireworks and concert is televised, and I like watching the show in my nice air-conditioned living room rather than in the huge crowd on the esplanade!"

This Fourth of July, Max and Sabrina are away in camp, and we'll just have Ben around. People in our area were lighting up fireworks last night and the poor little guy woke up, shrieking, because he was scared. So it looks like tonight, we again won't be one of those families on the lawn—and that's perfectly OK. Maybe we'll do the fro-yo thing. Maybe we'll watch them on TV. Maybe we'll park the car somewhere and watch from afar. Maybe we'll come up with a whole other idea.

Whatever we do, it'll be our own kind of fun.

Here's to having your version of fun on the Fourth.

Image: Flickr/StevenTulanay


  1. Me, I hate fireworks. The sound/smell is the issue. Hiding is necessary.

    I am working with a child who was severely abused plus he has a severe form of dwarfism; who because of his environment has PTSD. He shivers/shakes because of the sounds. Headphones don't work that well, what I find that does is closing everything down and going somewhere where there are no chances of fireworks. This usually is out somewhere where no one is at.

    1. It is good he has you looking out for him, Colin.

  2. Fireworks have always hurt my ears. I end up turning on the air conditioner, hiding under a blanket and playing a movie on my laptop.

    1. That sounds like a fun night to me! Hope you're having a good one, Kathryn.

  3. I can see fireworks from the next town over from my house but I can't hear them. I get to see them which is nice but don't have to deal with the sounds.


Thanks for sharing!

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