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Four Hard Things About the Fourth

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Family. Food. Fun. Fireworks. It's a magical day for some kids, but for those who don't dig allergens and hugs and stuff exploding in the sky? It's a disaster. Here's how to make the holiday less hellish.

1. Family Gatherings

Combine heat, messy food, and too many relatives, and you have a recipe for disaster for a child who has trouble staying out of trouble even under normal circumstances. Get some tips for dealing with stressful get-togethers in "Special Needs and Special Occasions" (and arm yourself with a Family Gathering Survival Kit.)

2. Fireworks

Children with sensory integration problems may find fireworks overwhelming, from the sudden loud noises to the bright bursts of light to the crowds of people spectating. A strong pair of earplugs, like those worn by hunters, may take care of the noise, and lots of calming sensory input before and during the event may help make the rest more bearable. Read up on some sensory strategies and be prepared.

3. Forbidden Foods

If your child has a food allergy or a medical problem that dictates his or her diet, seeing a table full of picnic delights that are off-limits can put a real damper on the occasion. Make sure there will be several things available that your child can eat -- and if there's an accessible treat that your child especially loves, bring that along if possible. Some treats to try:

4. Fun Overload

Particularly in years when the Fourth falls mid-week, with festivities spreading out through the weekend and on and on, there may be too many days of disrupted routines for a child with special needs to bear gracefully. Plan plenty of down time for your child -- and yourself! -- and be sure that every event you visit is really worth the trouble. One spectacular celebration may turn out to be better than four or five events with an increasingly overtired kiddo.

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