Remember, remember the 5th of November,
Gunpowder, treason and absolute hell for anyone with audio-sensitivity.
I have been posting slightly edited versions of this blog for five years now (excluding 2020). However, this is the first time that I am able to write this from the perspective of an actual dog owner.
As Guy Fawke’s night approaches people often discuss how traumatic fireworks are for their pets and animals. I can now relate to that. Although Hugo isn’t actually scared by fireworks, I’ve seen just how afraid he can be of other loud noises. A few weeks ago, at about 2 AM, a police helicopter was circling our area and woke the poor thing up. I let him out of his crate and he ran upstairs towards my parents’ bedroom. Before entering he completely emptied his bladder onto the hallway floor. Hugo is very well toilet trained so it was clear that this was due to fear.
I get it, animals are sound-sensitive and can easily be scared by things they don’t understand. But so too are some humans and I just don’t feel that this is discussed enough. The connection between the two is even more significant when you consider that a lot of dogs are actually support animals for people like me. How are they meant to support their humans if their scared out of their fur?
Fireworks from an autistic perspective
One of the main symptoms of Autism is sensory differences, meaning one’s senses are either increased or decreased in intensity. Many people, like myself, have increased audio recognition, meaning loud sounds are very loud. There are around 700,000 people in the UK with autism so why are we being ignored?
According to Google, the only people who appear to be taking recognition of these 700,000 people are Bath and North East Somerset council who passed a motion in 2021, recommending that all public displays be advertised in advance so people can make preparations for their animals and themselves. The council has also written to the Local Government Association, lobbying that a maximum noise limit of 90dB be set for fireworks sold to the public for private displays.
Councillor Tim Ball said:
“We are not trying to spoil anyone’s fun, but the fear and distress that fireworks can cause for people and animals is a significant concern… We are also pressing the Government to better regulate fireworks by limiting the noise level for those used in public displays to 90dB… [it should] not to be underestimated how much anxiety fireworks can cause for vulnerable people in our community who are sensitive to loud and unexpected sounds. If you are buying fireworks, please consider the type that are designed to be less noisy.”Tim Ball, cabinet member for Planning and Licensing.
You can read the advice from Bath and North East Somerset council here.
As someone who has found fireworks extremely difficult to cope their entire life I highly recommend you read and follow the advice.
Why does this happen anyway?
Unfortunately for people like me, Guy Fawke’s night coincides with the Hindu Festival of Diwali. This year Diwali was quite early which means we’ve been hearing fireworks go off for almost two weeks now. I by no means disrespect religious traditions but it does mean that the pain people with autism have to go through is lengthened. I also find the fact that people are celebrating Guy Fawke’s demise slightly ironic. It essentially commemorates the survival of the British government but who wants to currently celebrate that anyway?
That last line is a joke I have included in every single one of these posts. And each and every year I am surprised at just how much more relevant it becomes. I mean look at the state our country is in. Some people can’t even afford heating and we’re, as a nation, celebrating the people that caused that by lighting up giant bonfires. Just why?
What can we do to change this?
Now, I by no means feel that fireworks shows should be banned. But why do they need to be so loud? This year even more supermarkets are refraining from selling fireworks. Co-op haven’t sold them in 6 years, Sainsbury’s haven’t since 2018 and for the first time this year Waitrose won’t be either.
Even the supermarket chains that are selling them have increased their ranges of low-noise fireworks. This includes, Asda, Tesco and Aldi. From what I’ve managed to gather via my quick internet search, it seems the only high-street supermarket not selling quiet fireworks this year is Morrisons. So why not buy the low-noise ones, enjoy the colourful display and refrain from traumatising thousands of animals and vulnerable people?
If you are putting on a display let your neighbours know. With the technology that it exists today it’s so easy. Whether you have a Facebook group for your area or a WhatsApp chat dedicated to your street, just let people know in advance. It will take just a few minutes of your time and could potentially save another person from a lot of trauma.
So, as I have already suggested, next time you consider planning a fireworks display, ask yourself, is it really worth distressing so many people just for a few seconds of pretty sparks? If the answer is no, you can either buy low-noise fireworks or simply go to your local display rather than planning your own. And please share this blog. Not enough people are talking about how difficult these events are for autistic people even when they don’t attend.
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