July 4th 2022 BLOG
Before beginning my BLOG, I would like to thank Chris, a viewer who shares a website he has found to be especially helpful. Thanks to Chris for sharing this website ~
Just a reminder that as the author of this BLOG, my intent is to ‘share’, not to ‘sponsor’ or claim any responsibility for the information on this website; or any of the information in the ‘Resources’ given on my site. Thank you, Sara Luker.
Newly Added... < My Thoughts > Prepare for the added challenges of celebration cancelations, due to unforeseen circumstances. Good to always have a 'Plan B"!
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- Stay water wise
- Keep safety gear visible
- Have a Water Whistle
- Designate a Water Watcher
July 4th 2022 BLOG
America’s traditional Independence Day, according to https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/july-4th, was first held during the summer of 1776, as a celebration of the end of Britain’s hold on America.
Those celebrations combined pomp and ceremony with concerts, bonfires, parades, the ringing of bells, and the sound of cannons firing. Today’s celebrations have become hometown parades, family gatherings, bar-b-ques, and fireworks; from sunup to sundown, making it a long day of festivities.
For families of individuals on the Autism Spectrum, the day and evening requires that ‘safety’ become a priority. Sadly, drowning, choking, and wandering can happen all too often.
Drowning has become the leading cause of death among all ages of those with autism. Learn more about water safety on ~ https://tacanow.org/family-resources/fourth-of-july-tips-for-autism-families/.
< My Thoughts > “Learn more…”
Is there any water nearby? Individuals with autism have an affinity for water. This alluring water can be a drinking water fountain, waterfall, water fountain, water sprinklers, kiddy pools, swimming pools, or any water source. Individuals with Autism are fearless of water temperature or depth. What they see is an irresistible shimmering, shiny element to explore. A child can drown in 2 inches of water in just 29 seconds. Learn more about knowing your child on my website sarasautismsite.com.
Prepare for a long day. Give your child a ‘planned escape’ to prevent an unwanted ‘wandering’. One way to plan the day is with a ‘visual schedule’, or ‘checklist’. Older children and adult-children can participate in the creation of these plans.
Also, having rehearsed signals or flashcards which indicate the person’s needs will help.
- I need a BREAK!
- Bathroom, please!
- I’m hungry! I’m thirsty!
- It’s too hot/cold.
- Feeling stressed!
- Too much noise!
- I’m bored!
- When are we going home?
< My Thoughts > “Know your child.”
Sometimes, too much ice cream can cause a ‘brain freeze’. Or, a hot dog that’s not slit down its length can cause choking. Even eating too fast, or consuming an unfamiliar food can cause coughing or choking issues. Too many carbonated drinks can cause gastric anxiety, or other unusual, frightening feelings. Stay vigilant. Don’t assume anything.
Fireworks, which are a thrilling experience for most, can cause unease in individuals with autism. The loud fireworks can be so loud it triggers the “fight or flight” instinct. While neurotypical individuals recognize that they are not in danger, children with autism might take a few moments before calming down. The autistic individual might engage and display unexpected or unsafe behavior during this time.
The fireworks are not the only trigger. A crowded place might also be overwhelming, as well as the new sounds, lights, smells, and tactile sensations. Some might not enjoy having their routine interrupted. Even eating the traditional holiday food, the crowds, and/or the long day can be overwhelming.
Most of the time, when experiencing a new adventure, parents are cautioned to ‘make it short’, and build in many safety valves to prevent meltdowns, or other ‘sensory’ issues.
< My Thoughts > “…safety valves...”
One way to build in ‘safety valves’ and explain expectations would be to ‘reframe’ the July 4th Holiday as an all-day birthday party. This party has different sessions with food, games, loud music, and unfamiliar people.
Create a ‘Social Story’, or a Happy Birthday America card to include a ‘checklist’ with all the possible events one can expect to experience.
A Social Story or Visual Schedule may include some or all of the following ~
- Before we go to the Community Pancake Breakfast, we are going to pack-up the things we want to take for the day. (Favorite foods, sound-cancelling headphones or favorite music players, bubble machines, glow sticks, confetti/party poppers, silly string, patriotic streamers.)
- Comfy beach umbrella chairs with drink holders, from which to view the street parade. (Rehearse the application of sun screen; plus, consider a temporary tattoo with pertinent identifying information; in case of ‘wandering’ or separation from the group).
- Prepare for festival, carnival and/or holiday celebration excitement by showing videos, social stories, or other ways of building success into the day. (Arrange for siblings to take turn shadowing or acting as a ‘buddy’.)
- Try to keep meal time and med time consistent with their normal schedule, throughout the day.
- Acknowledge and find satisfaction in each event. Take time to review ‘checklist’, and/or ‘visual schedule’. To include videos or pictures taken and the fun that was had. Explain what is next and how traditionally, towns wait until dark to start the Fireworks Show. (Prepare them with sound-cancelling earphones. Allow impatient individuals to start celebrating with glo sticks, poppers, etc.)
- Explain that when it becomes nighttime, the Fireworks grand finale will take place. (This may be an opportunity to explain ‘Fireworks Safety’.)
< My Thoughts > “…Favorite...”
Make certain that the ‘favorites’ you take are also ‘your’ favorites, because you will be experiencing them all day long.
Safety reminders ~
Water Safety. Be especially vigilant if you will be around water!
- Drowning is a leading cause of death among individuals with autism. (Elopement and wandering increases the risk of drowning.)
Learn more about water safety here –
It’s essential to stay safe during this holiday. While fireworks are amazing to look at, they are highly dangerous and flammable. Instruct your child to pay attention to their surroundings and keep a distance from the fireworks.
Do not pick up pieces of fireworks; even a tiny spark can be dangerous. "Sparklers burn as hot as a blowtorch at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit (1,093 degrees Celsius). Sparkler injuries accounted for 900 fireworks-related emergency room visits in 2020.
- Use bright caution tape to mark off areas your child should avoid in order to stay safe.
- Use a countdown when setting off fireworks to ensure everyone knows what’s about to happen.
- Use extreme caution when lighting fireworks in the wind. Keep spectators where the wind is blowing smoke and debris away from them.
- Never smoke or consume alcohol when lighting fireworks.
- Store fireworks in a cool, dry place away from the reach of children.
- Steer clear of others setting off fireworks. They can backfire or shoot off in the wrong direction.
- Do not attempt to make or alter any fireworks or firework devices.
- After a firework has finished burning, douse it with plenty of water before disposing of it.
- Make certain that the water source is always guarded. Drowning can occur in a small source.
- Always have a fire extinguisher available, nearby.
- Only light one firework at a time and never attempt to re-light or fix a “dud” firework.
- Be considerate of individuals with PTSD and other types of medical conditions. The noise can cause severe stress and reaction.
FIREWORKS can brighten celebrations, but the noise from fireworks can be startling, triggering a startle response, or even a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder-like (PTSD) response. The unpredictability of the sudden explosions can set off an individual’s ‘arousal’, and/or ‘fight or flight’ response.
Dr. Todd Favorite (2019), director of the University of Michigan Psychological Clinic suggests that symptoms of PTSD may include:
- Extreme vigilance and arousal (Hyperactivity)
- Nightmares or insomnia
- Negative changes in mood
- Intrusive thoughts of the trauma
- Avoidance or social isolation
People with PTSD typically are highly alert to any movement or change that could signal danger, activating the arousal system or sympathetic nervous system. PTSD symptoms may not appear until much later with trouble sleeping, bedwetting, or even fear of the dark.
Symptoms of PTSD, by Todd Favorite (2019); Retrieved online from – https://mari.umich.edu/mari-news/psychological-clinic-director-presents-new-research
< My Thoughts > “…signal danger.”
Persons with autism often have ‘sensory issues’. One’s senses may be distorted or exaggerated to be interpreted as a ‘signal of danger’, especially when it is unexpected or unusual. The smell of smoke and flashes from fireworks could be that kind of trigger; along with the unfamiliar sounds and emotional excitement of the surroundings. Eating non-food things is always a tempting possibility for our guy. Ear plugs, or earphones playing soft music is often suggested. But for our Sonny, that is just added stress. His ‘supersonic hearing’ sense cannot be dissuaded that everything is ‘okay’.
We even tried driving to a quiet remote area to view the city’s fireworks display through the car windows. We thought that with his favorite music playing he might enjoy seeing the nighttime sky filled with the fireworks display. Nope, he began to engage in a long extinguished ‘Self-Injurious-Behavior (SIB)’; unwanted behavior of biting his wrist.
Watching from the car just seemed to agitate, aggravate, and confused him – “Why are we just sitting here with the car parked in a strange place?” Finally, we chose to drive home and watch the fireworks on TV! At home, he could ‘unwind’ in his familiar and safe world. We’d try again next year.
Whatever you do, however you do it, please stay SAFE and enjoy your 4th of July INDEPENDENCE DAY! Just a reminder too, that COVID-19 contagion is still possible. Preventative measures should also be part of your safety routine.