How to Avoid Sensory Overload During Fireworks Season

For most people, watching fireworks is a great time; for others, it can easily become overwhelming. Loud sounds, crowded spaces,  and the bright colors in the otherwise dark night sky can be triggering to those sensitive to sensory overload.

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a good fireworks show on the 4th of July or New Years’ weekend! Here are some tips our therapists recommend to help make this holiday weekend more sensory-friendly:

  • Set expectations ahead of time. If your child is interested in attending a fireworks show, make sure to set their expectations before going out. Outlining the evening in the days leading up to it and ensuring they’re prepared for the crowds, noises, and lights can help avoid a meltdown. This could be watching videos to help prepare for the sounds and the lights or laying out the night in clear steps (“We’re going to get in the car, drive down to the park, and set out a couple of chairs. Then we’ll watch the fireworks, pack up, go back to the car, and drive home.”).
  • Bring sunglasses or noise-canceling headphones. These are especially helpful for children with sensitivities to bright flashing lights and/or loud noises and ensure they can still participate and enjoy the show safely.
  • Be prepared with distractions. Sometimes, the waiting and anticipation of the show can be just as triggering as the show itself. Come armed with your child’s preferred activity or other ways to help distract and entertain them until the fireworks start. These can also help distract or calm your child down if they get overstimulated during the show.
  • Have a backup plan. As every parent knows, things can go awry regardless of how prepared you are! Make sure to have a plan in case you need to leave early or any other issues. If you’re spending time with friends this holiday weekend, establishing a specific word or visual cue that your child can give you to signal they’re getting overwhelmed and need a break can help prevent an issue from escalating. If you’re out in a public space, partnering with another parent or friend to have an extra car and an extra set of hands to help if you need to leave quickly.
  • Discuss sensory-friendly tips with your child’s therapist. Talk to your child’s therapist to develop a plan for mitigating sensory overload and more specific ways to help cool them down when they’re overwhelmed.

About IMPACT Therapy

IMPACT Therapy provides a child-centered approach to therapy with children aged birth to 21 years of age. Our interdisciplinary approach allows children the opportunity to develop and enhance developmental skills through a play-based approach while working with their therapist in an inclusive and nurturing setting. As a team, the therapists collaborate with families, teachers, and fellow therapists to ensure that developing skills are carried over into their natural environments into a variety of settings.

For information on occupational, physical, speech, applied behavior analysis, or any other types of therapies offered by IMPACT Therapy, please call (850) 325-6301 or email us.

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IMPACT Foundation Board Member
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Teresa Corbet