Lila loves watching fireworks, but getting to the point of seeing those lights grace the sky is a long journey.
As Lila has grown, we’ve noticed her sensory issues getting more intense. Her response is somewhat like the Hulk: what first appears to be a happy, excited child moves to what then appears to be a “badly behaved” child and finally turns to a frustrated, angry, thrashing, crying, screaming, uncontrollable, overwhelmed child. Some people assume she’s throwing a tantrum when really she’s trying desperately to tell us, even though she doesn’t understand what’s happened, she’s had all she can take.
New places, especially outdoors, often bring crowds, brighter lights, different smells, extreme temperatures, louder sounds, and places unexplored before. All of that all at once is too much for Lila. Her time clock is less than an hour in a situation such as the zoo before she starts showing signs of sensory overload.
By the time we've parked, lugged all of our stuff, waded through the crowds, and found our seats, we then have to contend with even more sensory stimulation - loud talkers; children waving, yelling, and darting quickly; grass blades brushing our skin as we walk in the field; someone nearby smoking; horns honking; the humid night air; mosquitos biting - and we wait through a half hour of all that for the fireworks to begin. During that time, Lila is a small, boiling tea kettle. Her sensory temperature meter is rising.
Usually by the time the fireworks begin, with loud booms and flashes of light in the dark sky, Lila has had it. As much as she wants to enjoy the fireworks, she can’t, and neither can anyone else nearby until we leave.
This year, we tried some cheap headphones. The noise cancelling kind seem to work for some of her friends, so we decided to try a cheap pair first to see if Lila would even keep them on.
Much to our surprise, she loves the headphones. She wore them through the fireworks show and seemed to have a great time, although her other senses did end up overwhelming her in the end. She has since begun to seek the headphones out in loud situations. We’re researching the best kind of headphones for her age and need, and we have high hopes that they will help her to endure situations that are new to her senses with fewer meltdowns.
Thanks to the headphones, we have one more happy memory as a family - a few minutes of peace and happiness that weren't disturbed by sensory processing disorder.