While many of us love the loud bangs and colourful explosions of fireworks, for children with autism it can be very frightening.
“Many parents of children with autism tell us they choose not to celebrate Bonfire Night because their children find it too distressing,” says Emma Delaney, from the National Autistic Society (NAS).
“The unexpected nature of displays can cause anxiety and stress, and for those with sensory issues, fireworks can be thunderous and blinding. But there are ways to make Bonfire Night a positive experience for children with autism,” adds Emma.
1. Plan ahead
Jot down the date of any fireworks celebration on your calendar so your child can understand when it is. Write a plan of the evening too so your child is fully aware and prepared for the night’s events.
Some parents of autistic children say sound therapy is useful as it improves you’re child’s ability to deal with different levels of noise. Fireworks are unpredictable, so explain that fireworks will go off an random intervals.
2. Show ‘quiet fireworks
You may want to show your child a sparkler as they come without all the bangs and explosions of big fireworks. Watching videos of fireworks may also help.
3. Check the facilities at local events
Find out from your local council to see if they have any firework displays suitable for people with disabilities. There may be a special area which is less crowded and will cause less anxiety in your child.
4. Have plenty of snacks
Children like calm and soothing things when distressed. Make sure you have plenty of snacks and drinks to distract and calm them down if they are feeling frightened. Handheld computer games are also useful for calming children.
5. Get some headphones
Firework displays can be very noisy even for adults, so for autistic children, it’s wise to give them some headphones or ear muffs to reduce the noise around them.
6. Stand further back
Standing further back from a display reduces the noise and crowd factor associated with fireworks. Alternatively you may want to stay in the car and watch from a good viewing point.
7. Talk to your child about safety
Reassure your child that you will follow all the safety rules and talk them through the guidelines.
8. Celebrate at home
You may decide to stay at home and invite close friends and family over. If you are planning to have a firework display at home you can avoid loud noises by buying low noise fireworks.
9. Turn up the TV or stereo
If your neighbours or nearby park displays are too noisy, pump up the TV or music volume to cover the sound, or you could try a games console.
10. Watch virtual fireworks!
Try this modern take on a bonfire if your child isn’t ready to go to a real display, by watching fireworks online. You can even control the level and noise of the fireworks.
“Autism affects everyone differently so it’s important to tailor the event to your child and be prepared to be flexible as what worked last year, may or may not work this year. Be creative and remember preparation is key to making this Bonfire night an enjoyable experience for the whole family,” says Emma Delaney from NAS.
For more information, visit The National Autistic Society