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Family Matters – Unintended Fireworks


July Fourth (the Declaration of Independence was really signed on the 2nd, but never mind), is typically a day of celebration marked by parades, barbeques, and fireworks, all of which are great family fun. Unless, perhaps, you have a child on the autism spectrum, in which case the noise, crowds, and change in routine can be as much challenge as celebration, leading to “unexpected fireworks,” i.e., a meltdown.
A few weeks ago, we wrote about ways to make vacation more fun, and less stressful.

The same principles apply here:
1. Prepare your child with ASD for what’s coming. Go to YouTube and find some clips of parades, fireworks, etc., and watch them with your child, so he or she has an idea of what to expect.
2. Wherever you go (even if it’s fireworks after dark), bring ear buds and sunglasses for your child.
3. If your child is an iPhone or iPad fan, bring the device along, as well as headphones. Your child may be better off doing his / her usual thing, rather than stressing out because of all the tumult of a parade or fireworks display.
4. If you’re going to a back yard BBQ, pack your child’s preferred foods. July 4th is not the time to address your child’s food selectivity!
5. Bring along a camera and take pictures of your child at the festivities. Afterwards, print out the pictures and create a little story about the day. Keep a 3-ring binder or scrapbook of special events (other holidays, birthdays, vacations, etc.), and use it to build up a library of experiences for your child.
6. Take things in moderation. Arrive early (before the crowds) and leave early (before fatigue – yours or your child’s) sets in.
7. Divide and conquer. If there are 2 or more adults, consider taking 2 cars, so one adult can leave with your child with ASD if necessary.
8. Safety first: Holidays are accidents waiting to happen: On the beach, in the street, at the pool, etc. Keep a close eye on your child at all times. Is your child able to communicate effectively with strangers? If not, consider “business cards” for your child, with your child’s name, picture, and contact information. Teach your child to hand a card to someone if he or she becomes lost.

9. Ordinarily, parents are nervous about sharing information about their child’s identity with strangers because of fear of abduction, but in your child’s case, the risk:benefit ratio swings the other way. In a pinch, it is essential that strangers recognize that your child is not a threat, but that he or she may need help.)
Happy Fourth!

Read more about “Family Matters” in ASD in Dr. Coplan’s book: Making Sense of Autistic Spectrum Disorders

James Coplan, MD is an Internationally recognized clinician, author, and public speaker in the fields of early child development, early language development and autistic spectrum disorders. Join Dr. Coplan on Facebook and Twitter. Have a question for Dr. Coplan? Ask the doctor.



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