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Autism: Fireworks Halloween – an article by our Ambassador Paul Isaacs

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Note this is been broken down into three accessible and relatable aspects of the holidays with different observations of what could be happening – this is from a personal and professional perspective

Halloween that other traditions (old, new and reformed) happen at certain times of of the year, in which people act accordingly with the customs made. In its more commercial form Halloween includes buying costumes and masks, going around the neighbourhood asking for sweets – trick or treat and so forth.

I am going to go through some of the potential challenges that could present themselves during these festivities.

Fireworks   

Those with sensory hypersensitive (sensory integration challenges), auditory processing challenges and hyperacusis may have problems with filtering the noises of the fireworks that could lead to emotional dysregulation and distress, developing phobias such as phonophobia.  

This can be broken down into two processing aspects


Phonophobia definition

Phonophobia, also called ligyrophobia or sonophobia, is a fear of or aversion to loud sounds (for example fireworks)—a type of specific phobia. It is a very rare phobia which is often the symptom of hyperacusis. Sonophobia can refer to the hypersensitivity of a patient to sound and can be part of the diagnosis of a migraine. Occasionally it is called acousticophobia.

Symptoms of Phonophobia

Animals

Because of the dogs attuned hearing to pitch a frequencies they also react to sudden sounds which may also provoke feelings of fear, anxiety, aggression also there have been cases of animals being struck by fireworks it is wise to keep them inside. 

Knocking On Doors

There could be a mixture of challenges going on here those with social emotional agnosia secondary social anxiety/social phobia may find the interactions difficult, for others it could be language processing (aphasia, verbal agnosia) and following the conversation with the inability to mentalise and also people with communication challenges (oral apraxia/body apraxia) whom struggle to express and need time to do so with presumption of competence.  

Different processing challenges to consider

Sweets & Chocolates 

For some people on the autism spectrum this could be a problem for people whom have dietary challengesfood intolerances and malabsorption. This could lead to the person becoming unwell such as stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea and distress for the person.

Conclusion

When looking at the specific challenges that could and do present themselves it is important to try and internalise these potential experiences from the person’s perspective.

Paul Isaacs 2021

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