Saying Yes to Bad Ideas

sensory overload

To the vocal families we encountered on Independence Day 2014:

You asked (rather loudly) why I would bring my son to fireworks when he had such an unpleasant reaction to part of it. Rest assured, I ask myself that question often. Each activity, each moment of our days is filled with difficult decisions. If the day’s wavering on the subject of fireworks wasn’t enough to tear my heart apart and leave me mentally and emotionally exhausted by the end of the day, your pointed and harsh comments brought back every conflicting thought of the day. So, I started again…..why? Why would I bring my Aspie, ADHD, sensory processing disorder child to a fireworks display?

Why would I bring him to an event where we must arrive early in order to find space, causing a long waiting period, when I know his impatience makes waiting a kind of torture for him?

Why would I take my son to a busy area, filled with many people and children, knowing the fear that would fill him when he saw the crowded spaces?

Why would I expose him to a place so filled with stimuli when his mind and body absorb every noise and activity that surrounds him with no filter?

Why would I allow him to stay up later than usual, when sleep deprivation changes his ability to tolerate environmental irritants?

Why would I bring him to an event that is marked by loud noises knowing that he would either fight to retreat from the sounds or (as was the case this time) work to push his own vocalization to match the decibel level of the explosions?

Why would I have him stay where sulfur smells waft past his nose, causing cries for relief and continual flashes of light may bring heightened activity?

Why would I want him to experience so many assaults at one time?

I knew all the reason NOT to go to the fireworks.  Considering this event was, in all likelihood, a bad idea.  So why did I allow him to go???

Because he asked to.

My son often hides from new experiences, missing out on so many things in life – birthday parties, special events, amusement parks.  He wanted to go to this event, he wanted to be a part of all the noise and waiting and crowds.  It was his choice, even after we discussed what it would be like and the struggles it might bring.  He wanted to go, to try, to live his life without fear, if only for a couple of hours.  Life is FULL of noise and waiting and crowds – and he needs to be able to contend with all of it.  If I can bring him to a silly fireworks display to help him build social coping skills – I WILL DO IT!


So, to the people who were clearly disturbed by my son’s complaining while we waited, wild activities in front of our own chairs (trying to meet his body’s need to move), loud yelling during the explosions, and his need to leave in the middle of the display……..I’m not sorry.  He was not a big disruption to you.  He was pushing his limits and building skills to help him become even more wonderful than he already is.  You can continue to say that I’m a (expletive) moron, you can continue to call my parenting choices into question if that’s what you feel is necessary.  But, I hope (someday) you will be able to see these events through new eyes, gentle eyes, and understand that a little noise and wiggling from the boy next to you might be a small glimpse into great strides.

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