The noises, smells and crowds can be overwhelming and send a child with autism into sensory overload, said Aviva Weiss, a mom of six and an occupational therapist in Merion Station, Pa. Weiss is also the founder of Fun and Function, a company that designs toys and therapy equipment for children with special needs.
"If families are going to be doing something different from what they usually do, those changes can be difficult for kids with sensory difficulties and autism," Weiss
Some families may choose to avoid the festivities, opting to watch fireworks online or on television instead, and have a quiet celebration at home.
That's fine, Weiss
"Every family has to make the decision that is best for them," Weiss
"If you discuss it [with your child] beforehand and say, 'It's okay if you get scared or sad or anxious, and I'm going to help you,' you're already mitigating it a lot by letting your child know you are there for him," Weiss
Here are some of Weiss's suggestions for enjoying the holiday with a child with sensory difficulties.
Prepare and practice.
Talk about exactly what you will be doing: getting in the car, taking a picnic, eating, watching fireworks, walking back to the car, waiting in traffic and any other details you can think of.
The more your child knows what to expect, Weiss
said, the better he
will likely respond.
"Having choices is very empowering," Weiss
suggests having your child be in charge of taking pictures at the event or passing out food.
Having a task can help him feel like he
is in control of something.
"Your child may have a meltdown and other people may look at you," Weiss