Watching fireworks is an American family tradition, but what if the special needs of a child makes this classic stressful or even impossible? Here are some tips to help ease your child during firework celebrations:

Plan: Think of your child’s needs, the fireworks experience, and mesh the two.

  • Physical Needs Many kids with special needs are not comfortable outdoors. Bugs make them buggy, and heat makes them irritable. Can someone secure the viewing spot while others wait in the van? Likewise, a little longer in the AC can make the firework display tolerable. Snacks and drinks are important. A special treat to eat can entice a reluctant firework goer. Glue a picture of fireworks on the bag for a nonverbal child. Take needed equipment, medicines, cell phone, and emergency numbers. Although this celebration is short, things do happen.
  • Communication Needs Many children with special needs rely on the predictability of routine. They move to the next activity more easily if they understand what that is. Mark the date on the calendar. Talk about who will go and what you will see.
  • Social Needs Some kids do not tolerate large crowds or deal with loud noises. Fireworks can be seen from many locations. Choose the fireworks location carefully.

Explain: Help your child understand what fireworks are.

  • Read books about the Fourth of July.
  • Look at pictures on the Internet.
  • Talk about the colors and the sounds. Which ones are your favorites?

Practice: Give your child a sense of what to expect.

Watch other fireworks displays ahead of time on TV. If sound is an issue, keep the volume relatively high on the TV set. The idea is for everyone to understand what they will experience at the real event.

Enjoy: Make it a meaningful celebration.

Consider the things that this holiday means to you. Your child may be able to understand the concept of a birthday. A patriotic birthday cake can help to get the concept across.

Enjoy the fireworks experience as it comes. You may be able to enjoy the evening in its entirety. However, each experience (however short) is a way of nurturing your child to grow to his or her fullest potential.

Reflect: Find ways to remember the experience.

Take lots of pictures. Put them in a child-friendly photo book. Label each page (or have your child do so.) Encourage him to show/read the book to everyone! Next year, the booklet will be preparation material for Fourth of July.

Children learn from their parents. Sometimes it is spontaneous. Other times, it comes in small steps. Teach your child the wonder of an American celebration.