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It’s that time of year when families and friends gather to celebrate with fireworks, bonfires, and sparklers. Autistic people often experience sensory sensitivities, which means that they may be more sensitive to sensory stimuli like bright lights, loud noises, and unexpected sounds. Bonfire Night and Diwali (both of which bring with them several nights of fireworks in November) can be particularly challenging for those with sensory sensitivities, making careful planning a must!
Make sure that everyone understands the sights and sounds they can expect to encounter during bonfire night/Diwali. Use visual supports like social stories, easy reads, or visual timetables to help.
Provide noise-cancelling headphones or ear defenders to help reduce the impact of loud fireworks. These can be a game-changer for people with sensory sensitivities.
Many public displays now have a quieter display earlier in the evening, which is intended for people who might be overwhelmed by the banging displays that happen later. Consider going early to avoid the peak crowds and fireworks.
If you’re keen to experience the fireworks, consider watching them from a familiar, indoor location, rather than attending a crowded public event. This can help reduce sensory overload.
Consider hosting a private event, where you can control the sensory environment and make necessary adjustments. Some companies now produce low-noise /silent fireworks that are visually stunning without the overwhelming noise.
The loud bangs of fireworks are very hard to avoid, no matter how hard we try. Consider creating a safe space at home with predictable or favourite TV, music, food or activities as a distraction.
Be aware that some autistic people’s dislike of fireworks may come from anxiety or fear of being hurt. Reassure them that you are obeying safety rules, but provide somewhere else for them to go if they don’t want to take part.