Tips for a sensory-friendly 4th of July!

The 4th of July is coming, and everyone is talking about their plans for the parades, band concerts and most of all – the fireworks that go along with this patriotic holiday. As a parent of a child with special needs, you’re also trying to figure out how to accommodate your whole family – the fine balance between making memories or meltdowns.

With some extra attention and planning, overload can be avoided, and the events of the holiday weekend can be enjoyed by all. The day can be a long one, so in general try to time things so that naps can still be had if needed and there is a variety of healthy food if possible. The following are some ideas and tips to consider before the big day!

If you’re going to see fireworks, here are some specific ideas to help:

If it’s a first- time trip, share some videos/audio of fireworks displays beforehand. 

Consider an indoor location where you could see the fireworks that might not be as loud or crowded. One year, we had friends who worked downtown, and we were able to watch from their building which was ideal.

Make sure your child understands the timeline of events and what will be happening.

Have some family members go early to scout a location and take two cars in case an early exit is necessary.

Bring noise cancelling headphones, ear plugs, sunglasses and a cuddly blanket/lovie to help with stimuli.

Pack some healthy snacks and drinks – although not too many fluids as bathrooms may be scarce.

If you’re seeking alternative ideas to fireworks, here are some to consider:

Organize a special time at your home or that of a friend and have fireworks playing on the TV or an outdoor movie screen with projector. Here is one for under $30 from Amazon.

Buy a selection of glowsticks/bracelets or other accessories and have your own backyard fun. There are usually a selection of them at any local retailer or if you really want to ‘glow’ crazy, check out all of the products at

Explain that pets also can need support during fireworks and plan a ‘pet party’ where you stay home and take special care of your furry friends. This gives your child a special sense of purpose and responsibility. After all, they are not the only ones who can get frightened or confused by all of that noise in the sky!

Consider doing a day-time celebration like a visit to the Cleveland Aquarium – open until 4 on the 4th!

Ultimately, the holiday should be one that all can enjoy and be as stress-free and safe as possible. You know your child the best, so stay flexible and if the day is not going quite as planned, staying home and trying something again next year is ok too!

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