Preparing your sensory-sensitive child for the Fourth of July

Health

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Fireworks around the Fourth of July holiday may seem fun but to those with sensory sensitivity, it can be an overwhelming time of year.

Emily Lennon, a registered occupational therapist at the Early Learning Center at Meeting Street, says there are a few ways parents and caregivers of sensory-sensitive children can help to prepare them for the holiday.

Sensory sensitivity refers to each sensory channel, according to Lennon.

“Some people don’t wear wool; it’s just too scratchy,” she said. “What we’re talking about with sensory sensitivity is the people that have an extreme reaction to that, or react to more things in the environment, and have trouble getting through their daily life because of that.”

Lennon says sensory sensitivity affects about 20 percent of children in the general population.

“If your child has special needs, it’s about 50 percent of children that have some kind of sensory issue,” Lennon explained. “That could be oversensitivity to sound, that could be any kind of sense they may not like. The touch — they may be clumsy, they might bump into people trying to get to the area.”

She added that about 70 to 80 percent of children with autism have some form of sensory sensitivity.

Video Now: Sensory sensitivity statistics

Lennon says knowing what your child is sensitive to is where to start.

“If you know that noises aren’t great, have noise-canceling headphones,” she said.

Lennon says to bring sunglasses if it’s light that bothers them.

You could also watch a video of fireworks ahead of time so your child can see and hear what the experience will be like.

Lennon also suggests applying deep pressure.

“Deep hugs or really tight squeezes. Have that child in between either wrapped in a blanket tightly, or between two people kind of squished. That would be calming for them,” Lennon said.

During the fireworks display, Lennon says one way to cope is to give your child control.

“Have a kid count how many reds there are. Have them engage some other way so that they’re not sitting there going, ‘this is so terrible,'” she said. 

Crowds can also be overwhelming, so Lennon says to choose a convenient spot for viewing.

“Maybe watch from a parking lot or somewhere that is not as crowded,” Lennon said. “And always have an escape plan. If something doesn’t go according to what you want, be able to get out quick and have that planned ahead of time.”

Rhode Island’s Department of Environmental Management announced a “quiet fireworks” viewing at Fort Adams on July 2. Rhode Island State Parks and the University of Rhode Island Student Veterans Organization partnered together to create an event for a quieter viewing of the fireworks at Beavertail State Park for patrons with hearing sensitivity.

From 9-10 p.m., attendees will watch the fireworks from the other side of the bay, which will be distant, but not loud.

The DEM says the event is open to the public but designed and tailored for those experiencing hearing sensitivities.

Parking is available in lots 3 and 4.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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