Kids, Parenting

July 4th Tips for Sensory Issues

The Early Learning Center at Meeting Street in Providence is prepared for the 4th of July with these tips for sensory issues from Emily Lennon, Registered Occupational Therapist.

If your child is sensitive to noise:
Stay further away from the fireworks display so that you can see them with less noise from the booms and the crowd. Wear noise-cancelling headphones or ear plugs, if your child tolerates them.Let them listen to their own music with earbuds while watching the fireworks.
If your child is sensitive to visual input:
Wear sunglasses to watch the fireworks.Stay further away from the crowd so there is less visual stimulation.
If your child is sensitive to touch:
Bring a chair or blanket (such as a weighted blanket) to sit on so they are not touching the sand or grass.Sit away from the crowd so they are not bumped unexpectedly by people in the crowd.
To calm your child:
Engage another sense
Your goal may be for the child to attend and tolerate the event rather than pay attention to the ceremony and use of a fidget spinner, stress ball, or clay/playdough during the firework display will provide a distraction.
Give deep pressure
Before the fireworks begin, do wheelbarrow walking, tug of war, wear a weighted backpack or another activity that is resistive to calm and organize.  Following these types of tasks, the child is more likely to handle stress/excitement.Have the child sit between 2 people to “squish” themWrap a blanket tightly around the child
Prepare your child:
Have the child watch a video about fireworks ahead of time so they know there is loud noise and sudden flashing lights.Write a social story about the sequence of the day and what happens during a firework display.
Give them some control:
Have them watch for a particular color and count how many there are during the displayHave them say what color they see i.e. red is for firetruck.  With the delay of sound from the flash of color to the boom, they might be talking and not hear the sound as much.
Be prepared:
Have some calm/relaxing time prior to firework display.  If the day was busy and chaotic, the child will be less able to handle the noise, late bedtime, etc.Have snacks, drinks, jackets, etc.  If your child is comfortable, they will be able to handle the stress better.Have an escape plan.  Be at the edge of the crowd for an easier get away.  Know the signs of overstimulation and meltdown and interfere/leave before it happens.  If possible, have enough adults so that one can go to the car with the distressed child and distract/play music until the event is complete.

These tips offered by Emily Lennon, Registered Occupational Therapist, who has 30 years of experience working within the pediatrics field, specializing in early intervention, outpatient, and school based settings. In addition, she is certified in Sensory Integration and Praxis Tests.

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