By: Lindsey Murphy, OTR/L
The Fourth of July is a wonderful holiday full of food, fireworks, and fun. However, sometimes the celebrations can become a bit of a sensory overload. In order to make this holiday enjoyable for everyone, here are some sensory-based OT tips for making it a more pleasant experience:
Increased frequency/intensity of heavy work activities:
- While the recommended sensory diet is generally to perform heavy work activities every 2 hours, increasing the frequency to every hour and a half can decrease the over-stimulation that may be experienced.
- Swimming is an excellent activity to provide additional proprioception throughout the entire body.
- Noise cancelling headphones, ear-buds with preferred music, Therapeutic Listening headphones, earplugs, chewing gum, etc. can decrease sound sensitivity
- Choosing seating away from loud sound systems and far from the noise of fireworks is important
- Selecting fireworks that are visually focused instead of auditory can improve self-regulation
- Although we love our red, white, and blue outfits, we want to make sure that all of our texture avoiders are wearing comfortable clothing.
- Encouraging kids to try on and wear any new outfits before the 4th can ensure that the clothes will be well tolerated.
- Since the 4th of July can be a sensory overload, choosing familiar, preferred clothing instead of new or rarely worn items is recommended.
Fidgets and other sensory tools:
- Familiar items from home can increase comfort with sensory stimuli.
- Fidget tools can make it easier to sit still for prolonged periods of time.
- The smell of the fireworks and other surrounding scents can be averse to many olfactory avoiders.
- Bringing along a few favorite essential oils, lotions, chapsticks, etc. can improve self-regulation.
- Items such as coloring books or favorite books using a book light, fidget cubes/ spinners, oil and water toys, sunglasses, etc. can be comforting visual stimuli during the fireworks shows in order to promote self-regulation.
- Chewy toys, gum, favorite crunchy/chewy snacks
- The motion of chewing will provide increased proprioception to the jaw and will be great heavy work to promote self-regulation. Snacks such as beef jerky, carrot sticks, celery sticks, gum, dried fruit, etc. are excellent choices. Chewy tubes, chewy necklaces, chewy bracelets, etc. will also provide extra input.
Visual schedules, social stories, pictures, etc:
- Providing a planned schedule as well as assisting the child on what to expect when participating in 4th of July activities can be helpful in decreasing anxiety and promoting a sense of self-control.