Create an Action Plan
We created an action plan that has been well polished over the years, as Richie’s sensory triggers evolved with time. Today, we continue to enjoy the mesmerizing light show as a family. We hope these ideas work for your family too!
Talk about the Event: Discuss the event details (step-by-step) with your child. If you need to, use pictures to describe what is to be expected. You can even try a practice run by finding fireworks shows on YouTube. We were able to enhance this strategy by adding surround sound to the television, simulating the loud sounds of a true light show. This strategy would also help to develop a tolerance to the loud explosive sounds, but please remember to be patient and stop if the experience is an unpleasant one for your child. We were able to use this strategy with Richie in small doses. That being said, please make sure to give your child the option of not going. Richie’s speech is extremely limited, so I used pictures to ask him of his preference (he always chose to go to the live show!).
Make things Comfortable: Whether you plan to just attend the light show, or spend the entire day at the event location, you’ll want to make sure everyone is comfortable. Be sure to bring blankets, chairs, drinks, snacks and food, if the location allows it. No one knows your child better than you do, so you know what activities or items will make him or her happy (comfort toy, noise cancelling head-phones, iPad or video game device, fidget toys, etc.).
Make a Crisis Plan: It’s very possible that undesirable behaviors will surface, you can plan ahead for this by brainstorming together as a family. I believe firmly in using Positive Behavior Supports. By planning ahead, you can overcome many challenging behaviors. Discuss the circumstance that will possibly trigger a behavior (noise, crowds, hunger, etc.). What behavior would you expect? How have you handled it? What methods have worked in the past with noisy crowds? Can they be used in at this location? Will you be able to retreat to a quiet place nearby if needed? What soothes your child when you see signs of him or her getting upset? For us, Richie would crack up laughing if we repeated sounds he made (I think he does this for his own amusement, because we sound absolutely ridiculous!). But it worked every time.
Please note that opting out of going outdoors and enjoying fireworks in the comfort of your home is a fine idea too! Before we learned to be strategic about how to handle firework celebrations, we had family nights at home, playing games we knew Richie would enjoy, and we had fun all the same.
Please remember that having fun means something different to all of us. For me, curling up with a book by the beach is enjoyable – but that might bore another person into an eternal slumber. For my son, it’s watching his favorite shows on YouTube, over and over again. The most important thing is to have fun together as a family, no matter what you choose to do. Our children will always cherish the days spent laughing and smiling, while surrounded by family members they love. Those are the days best remembered.
© 2015 Sensory Friends