LEE COUNTY, Fla. -- While some are preparing by buying fireworks for the 4th, others are spreading awareness about how fireworks can affect different people, and pets.
Kids, pets, and veterans in our community all love to have fun, but not everyone does it in the same way.
4 In Your Corner reached out to parent and child advocate Richard Keelan. He shared that this 4th of July, you want to keep people with sensory sensitivities in mind. This can include children with neurological disorders. "I remember as an adoptive parent, I brought one of our kids when they were 6 years old to fireworks for the first time, and they had a totally traumatic reaction and I didn't expect it."
According to Keelan, children with neurological disorders or who are on the autism spectrum can often be classified as sensory seeking or sensory avoidant. Children who are sensory seeking may be inclined to get close to fireworks, or grab a sparkler. Meanwhile, sensory avoidant children may be bothered by the sound of fireworks. "They may find really loud noises overwhelming, can maybe find the lights and the smell of smoke overwhelming," he said.
Children should still feel included, whether they experience sensory discomfort or not. Keelan explained most parents with special needs know their kids well enough to accommodate while still allowing their child to enjoy festivities. However, the average person should know not to crowd a child if they are experiencing discomfort. Keelan said making things into a big deal, may make the incident worse for them. Showing kindness and respect is key.
Meanwhile, pets may need some extra attention during the 4th of July holiday. At the Gulf Coast Humane Society, executive director Jennifer Galloway explained pets may have fear when it comes to fireworks.
Cats and dogs are more sensitive to sound than humans, so loud booms from fireworks can be a source of stress, and cause a fight or flight reaction. In fact, more dogs go missing on the 4th of July than any other day of the year. "That's when you really see an uptick in animal control facilities where they're finding all these animals that have run out of their backyards or have run out of different fireworks events," Galloway said.
Their suggestion is to keep pets indoors during firework celebrations and make sre they're wearing updated tags. You should also make sure your pet's microchip data is updated. "We really suggest you don't take your dog to a park with you to watch fireworks. Keep your pet at home, calm, maybe turn up the radio a little bit," said Galloway.
There isn't a more appropriate holiday to celebrate those who have served and defended our country than the 4th of July. Although veterans love the holiday, some with PTSD aren't fond of the sound of fireworks. "Sudden noises, loud booms, I just jump like 50 feet," said Army/Navy vet Paul Crotaeu.
4 In Your Corner met Crotaeu as he was building fishing rods at the American Military Veteran's Foundation in Cape Coral. He finds the activity very therapeutic, and says it helps with his PTSD. He tells us he prefers to spend 4th of July at home, but even then, he sometimes can't escape sounds that bring back bad memories. Adding, it sometimes helps him to take deep breaths in those instances.
A conversation with your neighbor can go a long way. Take the time to find out if veterans live in your area if you're going to set off fireworks, so they feel prepared. Or better yet, take your fireworks to a public park away from residential areas. Crotaeu still wants people to have fun and enjoy the holiday, but greatly appreciates courtesy and kindness. "They should understand that when someone jumps, and they act a little crazy, don't look at us differently," he said. "We're people."