Crowds. Noise. Bright lights. Explosions. Food.
All of these are to be expected during 4th of July celebrations.
But when you have a special needs child, things are different. Most kids today are going to be eating hot dogs, hamburgers, watermelon, apple pie, cherry tarts, desserts decorated with strawberries and blueberries, etc. My son has Sensory Processing Disorder. He hates crowds. He hates noise. He hates bright lights. He has major food aversions.
He also suffers from (currently undiagnosed but sadly obvious) anxiety, and his anxiety sometimes manifests itself as excitement. He knows he doesn't like fireworks. Yet, for a week, he has woken up in the middle of the night - wide awake - to come to my room and tell me how many days til "Fireworks Day." He spends the day talking about fireworks and how he's going to stay up to watch them. Normal bedtime is 7:30-8 pm in the summer. Fireworks aren't going to start before bedtime, so we're either going to have a meltdown about missing the fireworks that he isn't going to like anyway, or he'll stay up late, freak out over the fireworks, and be difficult to get to sleep.
Another thing he does when he is anxious is ask non-stop back-to-back questions, talking a mile a minute. It's like his brain just can't slow down or shut off, and he barely gives me a second to answer one question before spitting out another one.
When he finally takes a minute to slow down, his anxiety turns into anger, and he starts screaming at everyone, he starts hitting and throwing, and he ends up going into full meltdown mode - he gets completely sensory overloaded and can't handle it. I have to pin him down between my arms and legs until he settles down, while dodging blows from his head, keeping his hands stiff so that he can't tear at my skin.
He doesn't have a good enough concept of time to understand that fireworks aren't going to start for at least 10 hours from now, so every minute or less he asks when fireworks are going to start. This has been going on for almost two hours so far this morning, and it's almost impossible to redirect him and distract him from the fact that there aren't any fireworks yet. It is all he can think about.
My hopes for the day are that we can keep the meltdowns to a minimum, enjoy a few patriotic movies or episodes from favorite tv shows, spend several hours outside in the pool, and maybe catch a couple of small fireworks before bed - just enough to satisfy his want without scaring him too badly. We'll make homemade gluten-free/dairy-free muffins, homemade strawberry jello, and maybe some chicken nuggets and tater tots. We'll play with playdoh and listen to audiobooks and maybe even play with the neighbor kids without screaming. If we can make it through the day without going on timeout several times, that'll be a win in my book.
Happy 4th of July, everyone! God bless America! I hope you and your family have a fantastic day. Eat a hamburger and some watermelon for me ;)