Preparing for Bonfire Night with Neurodivergent Young People: Ask, Accept, Develop

By Dr Freya Spicer-White, Head of Neurodiversity Practice and Standards

Bonfire Night, also known as Guy Fawkes Night, is an exciting occasion marked with fireworks, bonfires, and the warmth of community gatherings. However, for neurodivergent young people, the night can present unique challenges. By using the concepts of our Neurodivergent Strategy of Ask, Accept, and Develop, we can make Bonfire Night an inclusive and enjoyable experience for all.

Ask: Engage with the Young Person

Open Dialogue: Initiate a conversation about Bonfire Night, getting insights into their feelings, expectations, and apprehensions. Some might be fascinated by the fireworks, while others might be uneasy about the loud noises or the crowds.

Discuss Sensory Sensitivities: The bright lights and loud bangs of fireworks, the smell of the bonfire, and the chill of the night can be intense sensory experiences. It’s essential to understand what might be overwhelming to ensure the evening is enjoyable.

Consider Preferences: Whether they prefer watching from a distance, watching fireworks on the television or not engaging in anything related to Bonfire night, ensure their comfort and choice are central to the evening’s plans.

Accept: Adopt a Neurodivergent Affirming Perspective

Different, Not Deficit: Being neurodivergent means experiencing the world in a distinct and valuable way. Celebrate these differences, especially during community-centric events like Bonfire Night.

Flexible Expectations: Adapt to their comfort level. If a neurodivergent young person prefers to enjoy the fireworks from a quiet spot, wearing ear defenders or through a window, support that choice.

Educate and Advocate: Make others aware of neurodivergence, fostering understanding and patience. Educating peers, family, and friends can help create a more inclusive and understanding environment.

Develop: Promote Growth and Enjoyment

Preparation Activities: In the lead-up to Bonfire Night, engage in preparatory activities. This might include watching videos of fireworks, creating themed art, or discussing the history of Guy Fawkes Night.

Practice Scenarios: If there are concerns about the evening, consider “rehearsing” certain parts of it. This could be simulating the sounds of fireworks at a lower volume, practicing wearing noise-cancelling headphones, or trying out sensory tools that can help with overwhelm.
Seek Alternative Experiences: If the traditional bonfire and fireworks might be too intense, consider alternatives such as glow-in-the-dark toys, LED light shows, or indoor-themed parties/activities.

Reflect and Celebrate: Post-Bonfire Night, spend time reflecting on the experiences. Discuss what went well, what challenges arose, and how future experiences can be even better.

In conclusion, Bonfire Night can be an enchanting experience filled with wonder and community spirit. By applying our Ask, Accept, and Develop principles, we can ensure that neurodivergent young people can find joy, comfort, and inclusion in the festivities. Every individual has their own way of enjoying and celebrating, and with understanding and preparation, Bonfire Night can truly be a night to remember for everyone.