Food, Fun, and Fireworks

CW: PTSD & Injuries:

In the United States, today is Independence Day. People celebrate with parades, picnics, barbecues, and fireworks. For many people, the day is overwhelming.

Fireworks are one of the most common causes of injuries during the summer. Last year, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were about 10,200 firework-related injuries nationwide. 73% of those injuries occurred before the holiday. In addition, burns were the most frequent injury, accounting for 38% of all emergency department-treated fireworks injuries.

For many disabled people, coping with fireworks is a challenge. Every year, as Independence Day nears, I worry about what will happen with each blast. My body becomes tense, and my heart starts to race.

Cerebral Palsy always makes this time of year difficult for me. Sudden, loud noises can startle me. The startle reflex usually disappears in babies between 3-6 months old. However, this reflex never went away for me. Retention of this reflex is often seen in people with Cerebral Palsy.

Some people experience sensory defensiveness. Sensory defensiveness is a “tendency to react negatively or with alarm to sensory input which is generally considered harmless or non-irritating.”

Autistic people, for example, may have decreased Sound Tolerance Disorders (DSTD). Hyperacusis and misophonia are two common kinds of DSTD. Hyperacusis is a decreased sound tolerance disorder in which noises elicit an adverse or incongruous reaction that a neurotypical person would not consider threatening or uncomfortable. Misophonia is an adverse reaction to a particular pattern and meaning to a specific individual.

People with PTSD can also find Independence Day difficult. PTSD is commonly experienced among veterans and trauma victims. When you are directly or indirectly exposed to a situation that could endanger your life, you may develop PTSD. In response to the event, your mind and body become hypervigilant. This is a survival mechanism that we all have. However, most people do not have life experiences that trigger the disorder.

A holiday with loud sounds is not enjoyable for many people. Be mindful when setting off your fireworks in the backyard. Please don’t assume that people don’t want to accompany you to a firework display because they don’t want to have fun. Some people find fireworks overwhelming.


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