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!
Research and Prepare
Often times, there’s more than one location featuring the fireworks show (park, beach, theme park, etc.). Find out about firework times, restroom locations, and whether or not there’s other festivities happening (fairs, festivals, or parades). Find out about parking – how far a walk it is from the site, and whether or not you pay to park closer to the event site. Knowing as much about the location will help you to plan accordingly, as well as gage and determine arrival and departure times.
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 in the past? How will you handle it at the event? 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?
It would be a good idea to have a contingency plan if things become too overwhelming for your child in case it's best for him or her to leave the setting. I can't tell you how many times I've traveled in different cars so we can leave if things became too difficult for Richie. Doing this makes sure the rest of the family can enjoy the event and Richie won't have to suffer through anything that makes him uncomfortable or causes him pain.
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.