4th of July Strategies for Special Needs Kids

July_4th_fireworks - fun from a distanceThe 4th of July is an exciting holiday, but for special needs kids it can all be a bit too much. Think about it: fireworks are basically EXPLOSIONS! Things blowing up can be challenging for someone who is sensitive to loud noises. Also, fireworks can’t happen until nightfall, which may mean staying up late. For typical kids that may be a treat, but some special needs kids find a disruption in daily routine very upsetting. Also, barbecues and parties may bring unfamiliar and even dangerous foods to children on a special diet. Plan ahead, be prepared, and you and your special needs kid can have a great time.

Planning ahead is essential. Pre-pack a bag of comfort items, medications if necessary, and any foods that fit your child’s dietary plan. Many special needs children find that earplugs or noise-reducing headphones help in loud situations.

If you are going to a live fireworks display, consider a vantage point that is a bit farther away. You will encounter smaller crowds and much less noise, while being able to enjoy all the colors and patterns. We found a spot across the freeway from a show and were able to see not only that one but also several other displays in our area, without battling for parking or having to cover anyone’s little ears. Some shows even simulcast a soundtrack on a radio station so check your local listings.

Speaking of local listings, another option is to watch fireworks on television or on Youtube.  You might even want to do this in preparation for a live show as part of desensitization (or as theatre folk call it, rehearsal). Rehearsal is a great way to prepare for a big event, and it can be fun, too. Role play a visit to a dentist or hair salon several times with your child, and be sure to switch roles now and then!

The following social story comes from National Autism Resources where you can buy many great tools, toys and other items to help on your journey with your special needs child. You can personalize this story to fit any holiday or situation.

Fireworks Social Story

Every year we celebrate my country’s birthday on the 4th of July.  We celebrate the 4th of July with fireworks.  Fireworks are a fun way to celebrate.

  • Sometimes fireworks make loud noises and have bright lights. That is OK.
  • If the fireworks get too loud I can cover my ears with my hands or put on my ear muffs.
  • If I don’t want to look at the bright fireworks, I can close my eyes or look away.
  • I can watch the fireworks up in the sky or I can watch fireworks stay on the ground.   If the fireworks are on the ground I will not touch them.  I will let an adult light the fireworks so that I will be safe.
  • If I am scared, I will hug my mom or dad.  Hugging my mom or dad might help me feel safer.
  • After the fireworks end, I will clap.  I will be happy that I got to see the fireworks.

Does Your Child Grind Their Teeth at Night?

It is not uncommon for parents to be concerned about their child grinding their teeth at night. The involuntary action of grinding one’s teeth, often during sleep, is called bruxism. Usually, a parent’s first sign of bruxism is the noise that can be heard when the child is grinding their teeth during sleep. The parent may also notice the teeth getting shorter or wearing down to the dentition.

There are several reasons thought to contribute to this issue. One theory is the psychological component. Stress due to a new environment, divorce, changes at school; etc. may be the cause of your child’s grinding. A second reason is thought to be pressure in the inner ear. If there are pressure changes, the child will grind by moving his jaw to relieve this pressure. An example of this is an airplane flight during take off and landing when people sometimes relieve this pressure by chewing gum.

In most cases, bruxism in children does not require treatment. If you are concerned that your child exhibits signs of excessive wear of the teeth, then the need for a mouth guard may be indicated. There are drawbacks to mouth guards, however. There is the possibility of choking if the appliance becomes dislodged while sleeping or it may interfere with growth and development of the jaw.

The good news is most children outgrow bruxism. The grinding gets less between the ages 6-9 and children tend to stop grinding between ages 9-12. If you are concerned about your child’s grinding, consult your dentist. Your dentist can monitor the progress of the wear and evaluate the severity.

JURASSIC WORLD DOMINION is Sensory Friendly June 22 at AMC

New sensory friendly logoSince 2007, AMC Entertainment (AMC) and the Autism Society have teamed up to bring families affected by autism and other special needs “Sensory Friendly Films” every month – a wonderful opportunity to enjoy fun new films in a safe and accepting environment. Wednesday June 22nd, JURASSIC WORLD DOMINION is Sensory Friendly at AMC.

Enjoy the magic of the movies in an environment that’s a little quieter and a little brighter. Families will be able to bring in snacks to match their child’s dietary needs (i.e. gluten-free, casein-free, etc.), there are no advertisements or previews before the movie and it’s totally acceptable to get up and dance, walk, shout, talk to each other…and even sing – in other words, AMC’s “Silence is Golden®” policy will not be enforced during movie screenings unless the safety of the audience is questioned.

Does it make a difference? Absolutely! Imagine …no need to shhhhh your child. No angry stares from other movie goers. Many parents think twice before bringing a child to a movie theater. Add to that your child’s special needs and it can easily become cause for parental panic. But on this one day a month, for this one screening, everyone is there to relax and have a good time, everyone expects to be surrounded by kids – with and without special needs – and the movie theater policy becomes “Tolerance is Golden“.

Families affected by autism or other special needs can view a sensory friendly screening of JURASSIC WORLD DOMINION on Wednesday the 22nd. Tickets are typically discounted depending on the location. To find a theatre near you, here is a list of AMC theatres nationwide participating in this fabulous program (note: to access full list, please scroll to the bottom of the page).

Still to come in June: Lightyear (Sat. 6/25)

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Editor’s note: Although JURASSIC WORLD DOMINION has been chosen by the AMC and the Autism Society as this month’s Sensory Friendly Film, we do want parents to know that it is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for intense sequences of action, some violence and language. As always, please check the IMDB Parents Guide for a more detailed description of this film to determine if it is right for you and your family.

Kids and Animal Bites – a Pediatrician’s Perspective

little boy and catAnimal bites are very common, particularly in young children due to their inquisitive nature.

The smaller the child is the more likely are the bites liable to be on the head and or neck – the most common place is however on the hands and arms. The most common bites are from our domesticated animals, cats and dogs. While a family pet is a good thing for teaching responsibility, a healthy dose of respect for other families’ pets should also be taught as not all pets are as friendly as yours, especially with strangers.

Children should be taught to approach other pets carefully and always from the front, offering a hand for the animal to smell first before touching.  Wild animals are another issue entirely and it is best to be very conservative and teach your child to never go near a wild animal, no matter how “cute and cuddly” it looks. If your child comes in proximity with a wild animal that has been “domesticated” by ownership, the same should apply. More and more now there are increasing limits on the type of wild animals allowed to be kept as pets.

Let’s get back to cats and dogs. 

A dog bite can be quite severe as dogs will grab and hold on to an arm or leg and toss their heads back and forth in an effort to subdue an “enemy”.  If a dog unknown to you bites your child, and after seeking the care for the injury, you should contact your local health department as that animal will need to be investigated and sometimes placed under surveillance for several weeks.  Your own pets should be vaccinated by your vet as recommended by authorities.  Some dog bites, if severe enough, can be sutured closed but this must be done carefully and sometimes left open to avoid infection.

Cat bites while usually not as severe as dog bites, stand a greater chance of becoming infected as these are usually more of a puncture wound quality making infection a higher risk.

Contact your Doctor immediately should any bite occur for further information, but please teach your children the do’s and don’ts of approaching animals of all kinds.