Bonfire Night

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Image from Pixabay


Bonfire and Fireworks Night

Bonfire night is an event that many people enjoy: huge bonfires, swirling sparklers and colourful fireworks.  Whilst many autistic people will get great enjoyment out of it and won't find it particularly challenging. Some people with autism and/or sensory issues may find it overwhelming or distressing. Here we discuss why this might be the case and provide some ideas to help everyone enjoy the event.




The displays of fireworks can be stunning to watch when they light up the skies with pretty colours and patterns. But the loud noises and unexpected bangs can make anyone jump. Some people love the loud noises: for them it is an essential part of the event. But the loud bangs can be too much for people that have hyper-sensitivities to noise. Even if they try to block out the noise with their hands over their ears or sit inside where the noise is somewhat reduced it can still be heard.  For people with visual hyper-sensitivities the different colours and patterns can be very enjoyable. However, with too many things to look at with fireworks going off all around, it may soon become too much for the person to handle causing visual overload which is manifested via anxiety or even a meltdown. 

Some autistic people have difficulty controlling their bodies. To them, it often feels that their body has a mind of its own as it does things without their volition.  The physical compulsions of wanting to touch the fireworks can be so strong that they are unable to control themselves in the moment and may behave in an unexpected way.


Crowded Places

Bonfire night is an occasion that brings many people together at night when it's dark.  People celebrate alongside a big fire and watch the firework displays to celebrate this event. Crowds of people, even in a familiar place, can be very overwhelming for some people. For people with processing issues unpredictable movements of people and the emotional overload of being in close proximity to other people can trigger anxiety and overload - even without the flashing lights and loud bangs. These people will generally try to retreat to a less busy place or demand to go home. They can feel swamped in the centre of chaos, with no way to predict when or where something is going to happen.  



How to help

Some people may choose not to celebrate bonfire night and that is understandable. There are ways though that you can help make bonfire night a more enjoyable experience by making some of the more difficult aspects easier to tolerate.  


Reduce the noise 

  • Ear defenders may help reduce some of the noise that people with sensory sensitivities experience. You could also choose headphones with some favourite music playing to distract from the loud bangs.  However, be aware that some autistic people use hearing to sense people around them. Any kind of headphones will impact this making it harder to tolerate crowds.
  • Some people may prefer to watch from an inside window, although the sound of the fireworks can still be heard the noise is much more tolerable.
  • If the person prefers to stay indoors but would like to join in the fun, it is possible to livestream from a camera or mobile phone. This can be casted to a TV or tablet device for example with the volume on low. In fact, if most of the family has gone to an event, live streaming that from a phone could make the person feel more included especially if the streaming is two way.
  • If you have your own private bonfire celebration at home or a friend's house, you can buy noise reduced fireworks, these are more focused on producing a spectacular display with no unexpected bangs. 


Create a safe area 

  • If you are planning to go to a pre-arranged event for the bonfire celebrations which is likely to be fairly crowded. It would be advisable to find a location where you can see clearly what's happening but have a quieter safe area. You could climb a hill, if possible, to help get a better view. This will also help with anyone who is unaware of specific dangers and is unable to control their actions. Having space will protect them and also help give you time to intervene quickly if you need to.
  • It will also be helpful to protect anybody who may easily become overwhelmed by surrounding them with familiar faces of trusted people, so they feel more comfortable being close to people they know. 
  • Home bonfire nights with a smaller selection of people can be much more bearable, or if you can see local fireworks from where you live, the option of watching from your garden will mean no one has to deal with crowded places.
  • It's important to be aware of any person displaying signs of distress. Plan ahead and agree how they should notify you if they are feeling overwhelmed. If they are pre-warned they can leave at any point if they feel it becomes too much and know how to signal you, they may be able to cope for longer.


We hope you have an enjoyable evening however you wish to spend your bonfire night. if you need any help with understanding your autism or sensory issues, please contact us at