The new year is around the corner -- how can you have a sensory-friendly celebration?

Emmy and Jackson, parents to eight-year-old Tristan, say that their family new year’s celebration is actually at noon on New Year’s Eve – not midnight.

“We figure that somewhere in the world, it’s midnight when we’re celebrating,” says Emmy with a grin. “Having a noon ‘party’ lets us keep it quiet, controlled, and so much more enjoyable for Tristan.”

New Year’s Eve parties – when many celebrate with food, drink, music and, well, noise – can prove to be too much for autistic kids and their families. Such a festive night can feel too unsettling for many kids with autism, which means added stress and anxiety.

But it doesn’t mean families of kids with autism have to do without a celebration – it just means a few tweaks, a few tips, and a lot of enjoying what might be a little different. You may, like Tristan’s family, want to count down to noon instead of midnight in the privacy of your own home – this way there’s no chance of disrupting a routine bedtime or having to hear people screaming a countdown to a glittery ball. There are other tips too: just read on.

Create your own balloon party. Make a craft activity out of this, and purchase some balloons, confetti, and string. Fill the balloons with confetti and air, and decorate around the house, releasing them or popping them at noon. (You may want to rehearse the popping of balloons beforehand, if that’s what you choose to do – the pops may be bothersome to your child.)

Create a time capsule. Fill a box with memories of the year – tickets to a game you attended together, special awards won at school this past year, a tooth that might have come out, or a favorite sweater that just doesn’t fit anymore.

Watch videos of fireworks. If your child is intimidated by the sight and sound of live fireworks, you can turn on YouTube and catch a firework show that way instead. You can control the volume, or turn it off altogether if it’s just not enjoyable. Who knows – perhaps next year your child may ask to see fireworks live in person. This way, you’re rehearsing for the real thing.

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