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Sensory-Friendly New Year’s Eve Celebration Tips

New Year’s Eve is a special time to celebrate with friends and family. It is a time to reflect upon the past year and plan for the year ahead. However, for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), New Year’s Eve can potentially be overwhelming and overstimulating.

Children with autism often struggle with sensory sensitivities. Things like fireworks, noise makers, and loud groups of people, all common parts of a New Year’s Eve celebration, can be very dysregulating. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a fun and special New Year’s Eve celebration that the entire family can enjoy. 

Here are our tips to help you have an enjoyable sensory-friendly New Year’s Eve! (And you can click here for even more information about hosting a sensory-friendly event.)

Countdown to Noon

Depending on your child’s age, they’re most likely not staying up until midnight. Why not accommodate your child’s needs and modify this tradition so they can participate in a New Year’s countdown? 

Instead of counting down to midnight on New Year’s Eve, try a countdown to noon. Counting down to noon will give your child an opportunity to celebrate the New Year without disrupting their bedtime routine and sleep schedule.

Have a Quiet Balloon Drop

When the ball drops at midnight it usually rains confetti, fireworks go off, and everyone cheers. You can create your own sensory-friendly version of this (minus the fireworks) for your child with autism to use when your family counts down to noon.

To create your own balloon (or confetti drop) all you need to do is:

  1. Grab a drawstring trash bag
  2. Fill the bag with balloons, confetti, streamers, or all the above
  3. Release the bag at the end of the countdown

A quiet balloon drop gives your child a fun way to celebrate, just like being at a loud, exciting party — without the loudness and potential sensory overload.

Family Movie Night

You can skip the traditional New Year’s Eve festivities and avoid loud noises from fireworks, strangers, and other distractions with a calm family movie night. Just grab some hot cocoa, popcorn or your family’s favorite snack, a weighted blanket, and pick one of your family’s favorite movies. 

Some of our favorite movies for ages 3+ include: 

Watch Videos of Fireworks

There will be many channels showing entertainment acts and fireworks. 

Consider viewing recordings of fireworks with your child. By watching videos of fireworks, instead of the real thing, you can control what your child sees and, ultimately, hears, too – and at the visual pace and volume that’s most comfortable for them. 

Click here for examples of sensory-friendly fireworks videos with calming ambient music.  

Regardless of how you choose to ring in the New Year, as long as you’re with your child, family, and friends, it will be special. 

Happy New Year from all of us here at Opya!