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Sensory-friendly Fourth of July celebration hosted by The Autism Community Store

It has everything you'd expect from any other Fourth of July celebration: BBQ, music, and fireworks - except this event has options and comfort for those who may be sensitive to loud noises and crowds
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Posted at 4:35 PM, Jul 04, 2024

AURORA, Colo — Between the loud noises of fireworks and big crowds of a Fourth of July celebration, it can be a challenging time for people with autism or someone who is neurodivergent, which makes them sensitive to that sort of stimuli.

Shannon Sullivan, co-founder of The Autism Community Store, said beyond selling products to help that community, it's also important to meet the social needs of people who just want to be included like anyone else.

"There are certain holidays that I think, very much, create a desire in people to be able to participate in them like any other family or any other individual would," said Sullivan, "It creates kind of a point of pain, because you want to be able to go to a fireworks display or go to have your picture taken with Santa, but it can be really challenging because you don't know what the sensory environment is going to be like."

That's why three years ago The Autism Community Store launched a sensory friendly 4th of July event. It's put on free of charge with support from the nonprofit Developmental Pathways.

It has everything people might expect from any other Fourth of July celebration: A barbecue, music and a near-perfect view of Aurora's fireworks display.

"We don't have the ability to turn the sound down on the fireworks, but what we can do is provide a safe place and give people some control over that experience," said Sullivan.

The store offers noise-canceling headphones, a small 'Sensory Cave' and a mobile sensory bus for people to take a break with some peace and quiet.

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Inside the Autism Community Store's Sensory Bus

Sullivan hopes that all businesses eventually find their own ways to become more inclusive.

"The goal ultimately has to be that people who are autistic and neurodivergent, can be anywhere in the community, there doesn't necessarily have to be special places," she said, "I would just encourage, really, the whole community to look at accessibility more broadly, and to think about how they can accommodate the population of people who have sensory sensitivities."

The Sensory Friendly 4th of July Celebration is from 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. at The Autism Community store at 14095 East Exposition Avenue in Aurora.

The Autism Community Store hosts other sensory friendly events throughout the year, they post information about those on their Facebook page.

Here are a few more tips on how to create your own sensory-friendly celebration:

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