By Mike Nickas
Hyper-senses on the Fourth of July
Between the barbecues, parties, and fireworks, the Fourth of July is one of the most festive times of the year. However, it can also be a problem for those with autism, Asperger’s, or any other condition that involves hyper-senses. It can be a major assault on the senses, and may lead to a meltdown or another serious incident. However, with proper planning and preparation, certain crises can be avoidable.
1. Prepare in advance
It is important that your loved one with autism is aware of what he/she will experience, from the people they will be seeing to the food and beverages they may be consuming. This is best done no less than a couple of days in advance. Using social stories or visuals to prepare them may be effective.
2. Make things comfortable
Bring anything that would help them remain stress-free during the event. Something like a blanket, a favorite toy, or a favorite snack could be effective in providing a distraction from a potentially stressful environment.
3. Have a plan to deal with loud sounds
Fireworks can be very overwhelming, so bringing sound-canceling headphones or even covering their ears is the easiest way to help heal the senses for the time being.
4. Be sure to take breaks
Be aware of how they are feeling. Pay attention to their body language and expressions. It may also be wise to develop a signal when things get uncomfortable for them. Prepare an escape route and a safe place to go unwind in case things do take a turn for the worst.
5. Ensure familiarity
Surrounding them with too many different things, like people they don’t usually see or food they don’t usually eat, may stress them out. As suggested earlier, prepare ahead and bring something that they like and are familiar with.
6. Keep an eye out
Not everyone with autism is sensitive to the same things. Some with “different brains” are considered fearless, and may be more fascinated with fireworks. Needless to say, be sure to keep from getting too close to any fireworks or fires.
7. Just have fun
Not everything you’ll encounter on the Fourth of July is avoidable, and you can’t spend every second of the evening worrying about what could happen. Once you have prepared beforehand and planned everything out, just be sure to take the evening as it goes and enjoy yourselves.
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Mike Nickas received his Bachelor of Arts in Film and Multimedia Studies at Florida Atlantic University in December of 2015, and is currently pursuing his second BA at the University of South Florida in psychology with a minor in education. He is the former host of the online news show The Week in Neurodiversity. He also currently works for Dr. Mike Rizzo’s Child Provider Specialists in Weston, FL.