Fireworks are a fun way to celebrate summer events, whether a family barbeque or a Fourth of July celebration, but for neurodiverse individuals, this celebration can sometimes be challenging. With that in mind, here are some tips to help make your family’s summer firework experiences more enjoyable.
1. Be Flexible
Remember that every family member doesn’t have to engage in every event. For example, bright lights and loud noises can be painful to a neurodiverse family member, and allowing a family member to skip this event can reduce stress for everyone involved.
2. Prepare Sensory Supports
For many reasons, neurodiverse family members may want to be present during a firework show. If that is the case, consider having sensory supports on-hand, which can include noise-canceling headphones or sunglasses to help lessen sensory overload and turn the night into a fun, memorable experience for everyone.
3. Explain and Offer Structure
Some neurodiverse individuals benefit from explanations and a structure so they can prepare for the day ahead, and the answer to why something is happening is sometimes the most important. Neurotypical learners can take for granted the ability to fill in the unspoken social rules, but sometimes that can be challenging for neurodiverse individuals. Also, consider providing a schedule that includes when and where the fireworks happen, how long they will take and who will be there so they can further prepare themselves.
4. Allow Early Exposure
Similar to a simplified version of exposure therapy, sometimes exposing a neurodiverse family member to fireworks beforehand on a computer, TV screen or even from a distance can let them know what lights and sounds to expect. If this goes well, maybe consider graded exposure by moving them closer or increasing the volume, but remember that every step forward is a success!
5. Set Goals and Celebrate Every Success
Setting up smaller goals like five minutes of participation and building tolerance is a big step forward and should be celebrated accordingly. But don’t be discouraged if it takes a few years to build up to a whole firework show. Remember, success can be watching a single firework this summer, even online!