How to have an autism-friendly bonfire night - 6 steps to take the stress out of firework sparkles

How to have an autism-friendly bonfire celebration with your family

Child looking at fireworks
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Families looking to celebrate Bonfire Night with children who suffer from autism are asking how can I help my autistic child with fireworks. We share tips from the experts for a perfect autism-friendly bonfire.

Many public bonfire events have already been cancelled across the UK following the spell of wet weather, with many asking where will storm Ciaran hit and when. But that won't dampen the spirits of those who are planning to have their own fireworks display at home. 

With that in mind, there could be a rise in people buying fireworks to light in their gardens resulting in unexpected loud bangs in your neighbourhood. But it's not just pets who struggle with the crackles and booms that come with the brightly lit sky. Children and even adults with autism can find the evening difficult due to the unexpected nature of fireworks and bonfire displays which can cause anxiety and stress, especially for those who experience sensory issues.

The National Autistic Society, with the help of the charity’s Facebook community, has produced a list of helpful tips for autistic people and their families to follow on the night - by using their SENSES. 

We look at these steps you can take to help keep your family both emotionally and physically safe this Bonfire Night...

SENSES - Tips for an autism-friendly bonfire night

  • S - Stick to a plan
  • E - Eat well and keep warm
  • N - Noise. You may want to use headphones or ear defenders
  • S - Safety speech - talk about fire safety and the dangers associated with fireworks with your family. Be aware some autistic people's dislike of fireworks may come from anxiety or fear of being hurt. Reassure them that you are obeying safety rules, but provide somewhere else for them to go if they don’t want to take part.
  • E - Extra distractions. Try putting on the TV
  • S - Set an example - If you are confident around fireworks and bonfires try to show that you are calm and having fun, as this can be reassuring for those around you who may be anxious or unsure. 

child wearing ear defenders

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Tom Purser, head of guidance, volunteering, and campaigns at the National Autistic Society, said, “Bonfire Night is an exciting occasion for lots of people, including many autistic children and adults. But for some of the more than 700,000 autistic people in the UK, Bonfire Night can be overwhelming. 

“Unexpected flashes and loud bangs from fireworks, as well as large crowds at displays, can be distressing for some autistic people and trigger intense anxiety, or even be physically painful, particularly if they experience sensitivity to light and sound.

“Good planning and communication are key to navigating many of these difficulties, and small changes can make a huge difference. For example, wearing ear defenders to protect against noise or watching fireworks displays on TV at home. Every autistic person is different, so it’s important they are involved in all planning.

He added, “For a Bonfire Night that is sure to sparkle, remember to use your SENSES… some small adjustments that can make a big difference. We have lots of advice and information available on our website at”

children watching fireworks with their mothers

(Image credit: Getty Images)

In other family news, your kids might be wondering who Guy Fawkes and how did he die? or you might like to make these bonfire cupcakes, treacle toffee or bonfire cake with the kids.

Selina Maycock
Senior Family Writer

Selina is a Senior Family Writer for GoodtoKnow and has more than 16 years years of experience. She specialises in royal family news, including the latest activities of Prince George, Charlotte, Louis, Archie and Lilibet. She also covers the latest government, health and charity advice for families. Selina graduated from the University of Sheffield in 2006 with a degree in Journalism, and gained her NCTJ and NCE qualifications. During her career, she’s also written for Woman, Woman's Own, Woman&Home, and Woman's Weekly as well as Heat magazine, Bang Showbiz - and the Scunthorpe Telegraph. When she's not covering family news, you can find her exploring new countryside walking routes, catching up with friends over good food, or making memories (including award-winning scarecrows!)