Bonfire Night, Autism and Me

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For most people, November the 5th (or sometime in October until late November as it’s become) is a reason to celebrate withย  bonfires and firework displays. As a person who has sensory issues I can honestly say that it is NOT my favourite time of year!

Before you mumble ‘miserable sod’ and hit the X on the top of your screen, allow me to explain..

As a child, I remember having a firework display in our garden at home. I say display but it was just my dad sticking some fireworks in an old biscuit tin filled with sand and setting them off one at a time.

Mum made soup and we stood about shivering waiting for the fireworks to splutter into life and you could bet that in any box of fireworks there would always be one that performed like a wet fart!

I wasn’t particularly safe with sparklers either but I did enjoy writing rude words in the air while Mum wasn’t looking.

I remember thinking that I should be having fun because I was a kid and that’s what kids do. But I wasn’t really having fun. I was cold. My ears hurt and my eyes smarted from the smoke that filled the air. I preferred to sit in my brother’s bedroom window and watch the displays light up the skyline. I’d sit there for ages until my eldest brother would tell me to shift so he could do his college work.

Mum started giving us the option of fireworks or money so I chose the money and sat and watched the fireworks from the window. For me, this was a most agreeable arrangement.

Ex hubs and I took the boys to a display once when they were little. We made sure our dogs were secured in the front room with the TV on loud but, still, we arrived home to a room full of poo, chewed up carpet and a video remote with teeth marks in it and it was decided that in future I would stay in with the dogs and he would take the boys to the local cricket club’s display.

I was relived not to have to cope with the noise and crowds but my relief was short-lived as my four-legged friends would totally lose control of their arses with each BANG.

Then there were the intermittent barfing sessions…

I would spend the entire night on my hands and knees, peg on nose and cloth in hand – disinfecting the crap (literally and metaphorically) out of the carpet while trying to stay conscious which was a BIG ask, trust me!

Autism

Most people who have autism have sensory processing issues to some degree. They are either under sensitive or over sensitive and bonfire night can cause a great deal of stress and anxiety.

Firework displays, in their nature, are unexpected because you never know what is going to happen and when. This is very stressful to people with autism who need structure and routine and to a child who’s senses are exceptionally heightened, the noise and blinding lights can be painful, not to mention distressing.

However, children with autism can have a positive experience on bonfire night but it does require planning.

Counting down using a calendar and social stories will help the child to know exactly when bonfire night takes place. Obviously it doesn’t just happen on one night now so while you can be prepared for any display you will be attending you need to take into account those that are happening around you on other nights. So be prepared to turn up the TV, provide ear muffs and distractions.

Showing your child a video of fireworks will also give them an idea of what to expect. Some schools do this as part of education about safety on bonfire night.

Do some research on the events in your area. Some events are disability friendly and are less likely to be crowded.

Ear defenders are invaluable when it comes to noise – unless you have a child like S who needs them but doesn’t like how they feel. I understand this though as I struggle with headphones for the same reason. Ear muffs are gentler. They won’t block out the noise but they will take the edge of it and they keep the ears toasty warm.

You could also jump in the car, park up somewhere and watch the skies light up. This is my favourite way of watching fireworks – especially with soothing music and a flask of something hot with a little nip in it – unless I’m the one who is driving and then it’s minus the nip.

If your child can’t cope with any of it then stay at home where it’s warm. Put on their favourite TV show and cuddle up. Don’t feel you have to do the ‘normal thing’. Understand that if everyday life provides a challenge for your child, imagine how fires and explosions will make them react. Even the fun stuff is stressful for the highly-sensitive autistic child.

S is excited about the fireworks because all his classmates are and he copies what he sees but this is the boy who screams when the hand dryers go off in the toilets or I put the hoover on and who struggles to wear the ear defenders that will keep the noise to a minimum. Noise triggers meltdowns.

For this reason, a public display isn’t a good idea this time but I do happen to know of a place where we can park up and watch the Manchester skyline explode without the sensory onslaught. I’ve uploaded the more gentler tracks of the Harry Potter soundtrack onto the iPod and, hopefully, it should give S a pleasant experience of firework night.

The lurcher will be safe at home with Classic FM on full blast as she seems to be made of stronger stuff than my terriers were, thankfully.

Whatever you do and wherever you go this bonfire night, stay safe and spare a thought for the those who struggle at this time of year.

Because of the poor economy, we couldn’t afford fireworks at our house. The only snap crackle and pop at our house yesterday was when I poured the milk onto my Rice Crispies! ~ Anon

A Bit Of Everything

mumturnedmom

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31 thoughts on “Bonfire Night, Autism and Me

  1. I’ve always hated bonfire night. Fire scares me and especially when children are so close to a huge bonfire.
    Never liked fireworks and especially the horrid loud Bangs just the thought of one going horribly wrong and landing on me.

  2. This goes to show just another hurdle parents of autism and the person suffering with autism or even just sensory issues have to face. I actually hate fireworks, even ones that are displayed and official. Fireworks can have a life of their own and it’s been known that they have flown into crowds causing the most hideous injuries. I agree Tracy, they are great from afar. Next, don’t even get me started on them going off night after night, also and celebration seems to justify fireworks being bought as a showy display. Gone are the days when they were for the 5th of November or the nearest weekend. Also, a but like smoking, what a bloody waste of money just to go up in smoke, a few *eews & arghs* and there goodbye to lots of money. Sparklers even scare me now, talk about mixed messages to children, don’t touch anything hot or go near fires but hey hold this thing with hot embers flying off if it. Even displays at New Year annoy me, what a total waste of money countries trying to out do each other. Our country is almost falling down on it knees for the real needy, do they enjoy 10minutes of Pom and Cermony or could the money go to something more worthwhile? We were lucky with our Labrador, he came from gundog breeding, so he never flinched at the noise but I can only begin to imagine the worry it causes to other animal, not just household pets but animals in the nature and farm animals. Gosh I sound like a moaning Minnie full of firework humbug but to me you’ve seen one you’ve seen enough. Having said all of this, I will get pleasure if I’m with little Miss Molly but my enjoyment will come from seeing her enjoyment. Also, having had 3 youngsters, we have done it all, a few in the garden, goodbye ยฃ30, put on displays, watching from the bedroom windows with hot chocolate & marshmallows and the best of all, driving around in the car spotting the fireworks.
    After the big day or days, I’m filled with dread watching the local news and still hearing horror stories of burns etc.
    Happy fireworks but stay safe.
    Xxxxxx

    • We can be moaning minnies together lol
      I hope little Miss Molly has a wonderful time and that her fabulous nana shows me some pics ๐Ÿ˜‰ Thank you for your wonderful comment – much appreciated as usual. Lufs you xxxxx

  3. Thanks for sharing and helping raise awareness about Autism. I never realised how this is something most people all take for granted and have wrongly assumed that ALL children or adults will enjoy fireworks! I have definitely learnt something from your post! Hope to see you again @ #abitofeverything

  4. I dislike fireworks as much as I distrust balloons. No time for random bangs (insert Carry-on innuendo here).

    Eldest is super-sensitive to loud noises, too. Hand-dryers scare the life out of him.

    We watch our local display from a distant train station platform. Less noisy and less crowds. And less expensive but that’s purely coincidental. No honestly, it is!

  5. It sounds like a minefield, but you seem to have worked out a way to deal with it for S. We sometimes park up to watch them too, because you get just the same experience without the crowds (and the expense).
    The visions of you cleaning the shit off the carpet will stay with me for a long time! I will be bringing my guinea pigs’ hutch inside on the main few days, although like you say, you never know when they’re going to happen.

    • The carpet was never the same again and we had to put a wooden strip over the chewed bit which was luckily under the window sill. One of them was that bad even sedatives from the vet didn’t work. It was just a case of having to ride it out the best we could, poor loves.

  6. Bonfire night isn’t a thing here, although fireworks for 4th of July is. We haven’t actually been to a fireworks display since we moved, but I do remember taking the boys one year (end of Edinburgh Festival fireworks I think) and the loud bangs didn’t go down particularly well, I can only imagine how hard it is if everyday loud noises cause stress. I’m not a massive fan of bonfires, and certainly have no desire to have fireworks at home! Another great post, raising awareness of something that probably doesn’t occur to everyone. Thank you so much for sharing with #ThePrompt x

  7. My youngest is angling to go to a show tonight, and I know she will cope (with ear defenders) as she loves the colours and the sparkles. And he’s desperate for candy floss. I’d be much happier staying home. The only good thing about our last house was its perfect situation for viewing the amazing display from the back bedroom window. Until my eldest was 7 I’m not sure she’d ever seen a “real” firework.

  8. Gosh, I get ranty about sensitive animals at this time of year, I completely forgot the sensitive humans. Pretty stupid and ignorant of me given that I am one! What a brilliant kick up the bum this has been. I totally sympathise with the ear defenders thing, since I had labyrinthitis I can’t bear anything near my ears. Ear muffs are about my limit so that’s a great idea ๐Ÿ™‚ x

  9. Gosh, I think I’m the exception. The bonfires & fireworks of the 70s, when I grew up, where always lots of fun, with Dad in charge of the rockets that didn’t really go high and the catherine wheel attached to the fence. The fireworks of today probably are much safer but are also a thousand times louder, and sometimes I wonder whether as fun because you’re so far removed from them. As this is probably something that doesn’t occur to everyone this This #Prompt is really great way to raise awareness. It’s made me think twice
    #ThePrompt

  10. I’m also a fireworks grump but I can’t imagine how tough it is with a sensitive child. The fact that it seems to go on for the best part of a week doesn’t help either. Why everything has to be marked with a fireworks display baffles me. During the summer months we have them every Saturday night as folk let them off at the end of their wedding receptions!

    • It has become a problem.. I lay in bed last night and they were letting them off after eleven. It’s so selfish of people. In my day, fireworks were a November thing only and only over a few days at that!

  11. I do love fireworks but it does go on so much these days (I’m a misery…!) It’s too much – for everyone – those with sensory issues, and animals especially. Great awareness here lovely xxx

  12. Great post lovely, important to raise awareness of something not everyone will be aware of. My daughter hated fireworks so we avoided display. Now she enjoys them, for children and people who are sensitive for noise that may never be the case, still our favourite way to watch is from the car ๐Ÿ™‚

  13. I’d never thought about how stressful fireworks could be. My daughter was terrified when we attempted to put on our own display from home last year but still begged us to take her to a display this year. She fared slightly better but still looked like she’d been through the wars on the way home.
    You’ve given some very helpful advice in this post, thank you for sharing your experiences with us!

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