Celebrating July 4th With Autistic Children
We have tried for the past 3 years to celebrate and more importantly, enjoy July 4th. As a military family I find it excruciatingly important to celebrate and educate our kids about our country’s heritage and the significance of their daddy being apart of a force that protects his children’s freedoms and those of the American people. But for three years in a row our children have spent it screaming and crying in the fetal position afraid of the crowds and fireworks.
The first year we were still living in the base hotel (took us 58 days to get a house!). We went to the celebrations and quickly realized we lost a kid. The large crowds, nosies and movement sent Bug into a daze and he wandered off before we knew it. We regrouped and headed back for the hotel to see the fireworks. Thank gosh we did. The first three fireworks were shot off. At first Bug we excited because it looked like Star Wars to him. Soon it was clear that the excitement phase passed when we looked over and saw him crouching down, rocking and holding his knees. Diva had been crying at the first blast and that was the end of the fireworks show for us.
The second year we were lucky enough to be in our new home on post. But ironically enough we were located the exact distance on the opposite side of the field as we were living in the hotel. Because of the issues the previous year; we skipped the celebrated and just waited for the fireworks. Our kids are a year older; surely they would enjoy them now. –> oh how a naive thought that was.
Last year Hubs was deployed. With our track record and new born, I was not about to attempt that again.
I was planning on staying home again this year. Comfortable with my decision I have been planning a few activities for us to do. However, those just got put on hold because Hubs announced we are going to the Fourth of July celebration after all. Hmm, maybe that year of deployment erased few brain cells. Maybe it’s his hopefulness that his children have grown and changed. Maybe it’s the realist in me that already knows how this will end. I wager we spend a hour there waiting of the band to come on (anyone know One Republic?!) before Hubs throws in the towel. Nevertheless, I want to make it as successful as I can. I ran across this article from Autismwonderland and thought it was a perfect addition to this post.
I also wanted to add a few things we plan on doing in addition to this articles suggestions-
Go Early. We plan out day around the kids naps. I won’t lie, it’s so we get a nap too. They tend to need a rest in the early afternoon, which is great because during the summer it is the hottest part of the day. I suggest leaving early to start your day. Most kids, including ours, get up early. Take advantage of it for once. Get up and get going. Ours get up around 6AM. By 8, we are usually fed and clothed. We usually eat a snack around 10 and lunch at 11/12. By 2 we are all ready to head home and call it a day.
Breaks. We live close enough that we can walk to the celebration, hang out for a while and ride a few rides and eat some yummy foods and then go home for a break before walking back for the concert. If you aren’t able to go home in between I highly suggest you go to the car, find a curb or a spot under a tree. I promise you the kids will last longer if you can provide their little minds with a sensory break. Our kids tend to archive sensory overload fast. Giving their brains a breather will help with calmer minds and bodies.
Backup. I always carry my iPhone on me. Don’t we all? On there I have a movie for the kids and a few apps to help them focus and relax during our breaks or moments of high anxiety. On longer outings I also bring with us backup. Which includes leappad2, leapfrog explorer, two iPhone 3GS and iPad. Yes, it seems like a lot, but you can never be too prepared. Especially if your planning a long day.
Food. The natives get restless fast and we have found food helps us keep going longer. But don’t leave yourself out! I used to always pack tons of snacks for the kids and I would wind up eating fruit snacks. Not my idea of a snack. We love prepackaged peanut butter crackers, squeezable applesauce and juice boxes. We always make sure to pack a water bottle for each member.
The last thing is to remember the limits of your kids and make sure they set the limits. Don’t set your expectations to high. Yes, I would love to stay for the concert and fireworks. But realistically I know our kids will be too tired, over stimulated and too much sensory input to expect them to sit through a loud crowed concert and then fireworks.