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Bonfire Night for SEND families

Bonfire Night for SEND families

Loud noises, bright contrasts, sudden changes of direction and usually lots and lots of people. All this while being in an unfamiliar place, open to the elements and in the dark. This can often make attending Bonfire night or Fireworks tricky for some children with SEND whilst others can be mesmerised. What tips can we share and how has our community got on with it?  Lizzie from A Curious Journey and I have gathered advice and tips to organise a Bonfire Night for SEND families.

Lizzie has two boys, age six and three, with global developmental delay, hypermobility and autism. As her blog helps similar parents prepare for their next holiday or day out so that everyone feels confident to try new things and the family can enjoy their time together, she’s pretty perfect to help us on this one. 

Preparing your SEND child for Bonfire Night and fireworks

My top tip is preparation. We have found that preparing our kids for the event is as important as what we do at it.  Our eldest likes fireworks but might struggle with it if it’s not what he was expecting to do with his evening.  Like us The Autism Page uses visuals to help.  We also point and label them when we see or hear them in other places.  This means if we go to a display we often go to one later in the week. This gives opportunities to see and hear fireworks just days before the actual event and get ready for it.

Choosing your location

If the crowds are overwhelming quite a few bloggers suggested watching from a distance. Isla’s Voice  can watch a local display from her garden to avoid the crowds – but also buys lots of sparklers and enjoy being together as a family.  Whereas Mummy Est.2014 has learnt how to make it work away from the house as having fireworks near the home worries her son.  First Time Valley Mam makes the location part of a bigger adventure.  They used to go and watch it at the beach, but now actually go away for it. Tourette Tales has also avoided the crowds the last few year, opting to drive out to a look out point and this had worked for them. 

Work with the senses

Despite avoiding the crowds, Tourette Tales finds that as her kids are more sensory seekers, they choose to immerse themselves in the fireworks with 3D glasses on and eating popping candy for a full on sensory experience. 

But some kids are more sensitive. One of our son’s struggles with the noise of fireworks. He takes a iPad with him and holds it up to his ears so it masks some of the sound a bit. Both Mummy Est.2014  and A Curious Journey use ear defenders to help block it out too.

Dress warmly, with layers

We also take extra care with keeping warm and dry. Some kids with sensory issues also don’t understand when they are too cold and it’s easy to get a chill you are just watching fireworks. The temperature drops quickly in the evening and an extra blanket over a wheelchair or buggy can be vital. And because it’s the UK, it could rain so have the right gear with you.

Adapt safety messages for your child

Last mention is for safety. Some kids may be able to take in a simple safety briefing and others not. We can use simple visuals with crosses on them about what not to do. But if we take David he won’t really remember these and we would have to hold his hand or have him in a buggy.  We couldn’t risk him running away in the dark or in a crowd of people especially if there was an actual bonfire. We try not to create pressure that could lead to him running off and never worry about leaving somewhere if it’s not working for us.

Don’t be reluctant to leave if it gets too much

Bonfire night for SEND families can easily get too crowded, too loud, too overwhelming overall, even if you take precautions.

A Curious Journey visits the garden display at their local pub. Although it can get a bit crowded, it provides her with least an easy getaway if it doesn’t go well. Despite all the time and thought that goes into preparing and getting to our fireworks display, there is no pressure for the kids to have to deal with it or wait it out. Knowing this makes it easier and more enjoyable for our family.

More Bonfire Night ideas and tips

About Ann .

"Rainbows are too beautiful," said Anthony. "I just can't look at them." Ann says her son's statement characterizes so much about how her autistic and neurotypical family interacts and interprets the world in their own wonderful way. Originally a PR and marketing professional for the third sector, Ann now does some lecturing in this topic but spends most of her time being a full time mum and sharing her experiences through her award nominated blog. Ann’s three kids attend different schools and have multiple diagnoses including Autism, ADHD, anxiety and more. Ann is a Trustee on a local disabled children’s charity and speaks at SEND conferences and consultations.