MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — New Year’s Eve is a holiday known for its traditions.
Fireworks shows, banging pots and pans and staying up to watch the ball drop are just a few, but while they are fun for some, not everyone finds them enjoyable.
Becky Large, executive director of Champion Autism Network, said a lot of the discomfort has to do with the change in routine.
“People want to get together with family, usually at a different person’s house,” Large said. “If your person with autism can’t withstand or sustain going to a different place or having their sleep schedule thrown off because you’re trying to stay up til midnight or later, you might want to just even consider having a normal night.”
While many enjoy starting the new year off with a fireworks show at midnight, Large said there are other unique ways to ring in 2023 that do not require a schedule change.
“Celebrate at noon instead of midnight, or maybe different time zones,” Large said. “Let’s just pretend you picked a different time zone that’s in a different country. Maybe you could even celebrate the way that country does it.”
Fireworks are a staple of the holiday, but bright flashing lights and loud booming noises have the potential to be scary for people with autism. Large recommends families refrain from bringing their loved ones with autism to firework shows.
The loud booms are not always escapable when they’re coming from neighboring homes, but Large said there are several things you can do.
“Try white noise machines if they’re trying to sleep, ear defenders or earplugs,” Large said. “If they’re awake, maybe have the TV on at an acceptable volume level just to kind of shift the focus.”
Large said if families are bringing a person with autism to a fireworks show it would be beneficial to show them videos ahead of time so they know what to expect.
Many families of people with autism might choose to attend a traditional new year’s event. Large said community members can help by being aware of their surroundings.
“If you see a child running, be aware that it could be an eloper or a child with autism and maybe look for another caretaker and try and stop them a little bit,” Large said. “If there are tantrums or meltdowns, understand that this could be a child or family in crisis.”