Family Travel & Holidays

When Sensory Issues Trigger Meltdowns from Our Sensitive Kids

Sensory issues limit daily life for many kids with ADHD. Here, ADDitude readers tell us how they adapt to their kids’ sensory sensitivities, from loud music to laughter to fireworks and beyond.

Sensory processing disorder (SPD) is an inability to sort out external stimuli—making the smallest stimuli unbearable—or the need to search out high-stimulus activities to arouse sluggish senses. When researchers looked at children who showed symptoms of ADHD or SPD, 40 percent showed symptoms of both. It is important that both conditions are identified and treated early. 
Sensory processing disorder (SPD) is an inability to sort out external stimuli—making the smallest stimuli unbearable—or the need to search out high-stimulus activities to arouse sluggish senses. When researchers looked at children who showed symptoms of ADHD or SPD, 40 percent showed symptoms of both. It is important that both conditions are identified and treated early. 

Sensory issues stop many neurodivergent kids from attending fireworks displays, seeing their favorite bands in concert, watching movies in the theater, and even enjoying festivals or theme parks. As their families know all too well, these kids’ sensitive sense of hearing, smell, and/or vision may mean they need shielding from the painful stimuli that surround them.

Here, eight ADDitude readers tell us how they manage their kids’ sensory sensitivities — and avoid tears and sensory meltdowns when the world gets loud and bright. Does your child have sensory difficulties? Share your sensory-safe strategies in the comments below.

“We knew from a very young age that our son was sensitive to bright lights and loud sounds, not to mention large crowds of people. We’ve never gone to the main area in town to see fireworks — we go to a quieter spot a good ways away.” — Alison, Maryland

“We have a family member who’s a race car driver. My daughter wears headphones or earplugs at the track. We watch the sound levels all the time, but we don’t avoid the fun!— An ADDitude Reader

“My daughter has always been extremely sensitive to loud noises. She would cry when people sang happy birthday, clapped, or even laughed! She is 11 now and has improved greatly. She doesn’t like these things, but she’s learned to tolerate them with the help of noise-canceling headphones.” — Caron, Canada

[Self-Test: Sensory Processing Disorder in Children]

“It’s been a little disappointing for me as a parent because I love fireworks, and I miss them. But I want my daughter to feel comfortable and safe more than I want to see fireworks shows. It’s a small sacrifice. I think every family needs to balance their collective needs against the needs of their neurodivergent kid.— Lauren, Virginia

“I couldn’t even take my daughter into stores as a baby; they were too bright and noisy. She would cry and scream as soon as we got inside. We tried fireworks when she was about 3 and she started crying as soon as they started. We have only watched them on TV since then.— An ADDitude Reader

“We no longer go to fireworks. Up until age 10, my son hated them and screamed and we had to leave. It was torture. We finally realized it’s just not a match. We tried noise-canceling headphones, and sunglasses, and it just did not work for him. We have awesome fireflies in our area, so we watch those together instead. It’s a great fit for us.” — An ADDitude Reader

“My little one does not like the noise of fireworks, but his sister and father adore them. So he and I stay inside and watch through the door or window, or he covers his ears outside if it’s a smaller cracker, and he can enjoy the sights without the impact of the sounds.— An ADDitude Reader

[Download: Could It Be Sensory Processing Disorder?]

“We are currently going through testing with our 7-year-old, who has had sound sensitivities since he was 2. We’ve avoided firework displays until last year, when he asked to go and we gave him ear defenders. — Louis H.

Sensory Sensitivity in Kids: Next Steps


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