Sensory-Friendly Canada Day: For children with FASD and other Sensory Sensitivities

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Canada Day is a day to celebrate, eat, spend time with friends and family and have fun. But, for children with sensory issues, this day could be quite overwhelming and stressful. A crowded place with lot of unknown people, loud noises, flashing, bright lights, distracting colors and unusual food are among the list of things that may be quite overwhelming for a child with sensory issues such as children with FASD and autism. The unpredictability of events and activities and chaotic nature of the events may make these children very anxious. This article is about how you could plan sensory-friendly events for children with FASD, autism and ‘sensory sensitivities’. Surrey, BC is already planning a sensory-friendly Canada Day1! So why don’t we get together and plan to have a sensory-friendly Canada Day across Canada that will be appropriate for individuals with sensory sensitivities including FASD.

In Canada, Autism-friendly activities are commonly practiced2-4, we need such programs for individuals with FASD and similar disabilities.

Tips to plan sensory-friendly programs

Create sensory-friendly events

  • Small group activities
  • Quieter space with reduced noise, less flashing lights, neutral colors and fragrance-free
  • Assistance staff – friendly, supportive and understanding

For more information, refer to the following guidelines that are used for children with Autism

Sensory-Friendly Tip Sheets
Sensory-friendly tip sheets are very useful for parents, family members or schoolteachers who are accompanying children with FASD and sensory issues. These tips sheets would help the accompanying adults to prepare their children for the activities happening, places to avoid, and quiet places they could take their child.

Generally, a Sensory-friendly tip sheet would have following information:

  • Short description of the event
  • Crowds and lines
  • Types of visual stimuli
  • Types of auditory stimuli
  • Activities
  • Restrooms
  • Quiet spaces nearby
  • Emergency assistance services
  • Map of the location

An example of Sensory-friendly tip sheets can be found here

Chart of Sensory levels
A sensory levels chart would be handy for parents, family members and other accompanying adults who participate in the events and activities with a child with FASD and other conditions with Sensory sensitivities.

Tips for parents

As parents and family members what can you do to help your children with sensory issues participate in activities of the Canada Day.

Plan the day based on your child’s needs
Every child with FASD is different, they have different degrees of sensitivities and abilities to self-control. Know your child and know their limits. Is a simple outing on Canada Day going to be too overwhelming for your child? If so, what can you do to have your child participate in Canada Day celebrations. A few options include, rather than going to open concerts, festivals and carnivals, you could take your child to a sensory-friendly movie, engage in sensory-friendly games, take your child to a friend or relative’s house or let them invite a few of his/her friends to your home and plan a fun evening.

Fireworks: While fireworks can be very enjoyable to most of us, the sudden noises and colors may be upsetting for your child with FASD. You could watch the fireworks from home through a TV or laptop where you could control the volume, brightness and the environment.

Canada Day Preview:
One thing you can do is tell your child what to expect and what a Canada Day would look like, such as the crowds, types of people they may see, loud noises they may hear and lights that may disorient them. If you can prepare your child for what happens on Canada Day, that may save your child from surprises and unexpected negative reactions and possibly escalating behaviours associated with them. You could show photos and videos of Canada Day celebrations to your children and explain what could happen.

Have assistive tools with you
If you know your child’s challenges, needs and what works when a sensory overload happens, be prepared for such situations. Examples are:

  • A toy that your child likes and calms them down
  • Headphones or ear plugs if the place gets too loud

Have a card with you that lists your child’s situation, limitations, sensitive nature
If you plan to drop off your child at another place (friend’s house, school activity, outing), leave a card that lists your child’s sensory issues, what to do if they become overwhelmed and contact information in case of an emergency. If this information is available for the activity planners, they could be prepared for your child’s challenges.

References

1          Surrey Canada Day Expands with a Lineup of New Attraction, https://www.surrey.ca/city-government/29499.aspx. (June 5, 2019).

2          Sensory Friendly Screenings, https://www.autismspeaks.ca/science-services-resources/services/family-services-partnerships/sensory-friendly-screenings/. (

3          Sensory Friendly Attractions in Ontario, https://www.aoda.ca/sensory-friendly-attractions-in-ontario/. (July 10, 2018 ).

4          Sensory-Friendly Saturdays, https://www.ontariosciencecentre.ca/Calendar/368/. (2019).

 

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