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People at Mardi Gras parade

Tips for Enjoying Mardi Gras for People with Sensory Difficulties

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Living in southern Louisiana, Mardi Gras is a basic part of life.

As small children, we perch excitedly on ladders shouting, “Throw me something mister!” hoping to catch pretty beads or a stuffed animal. We learn how to wait for hours on the parade route and enjoy dancing as the marching bands pass.

But what if touching the material of a stuffed animal or hearing the loud drums and horns made you feel overwhelmed or scared? For some children (and adults) with sensory processing difficulties, this is a reality.

Here are some sensory suggestions for people who may be a bit more hesitant to let the good times roll during Mardi Gras season.

  • Stand further back from the parade route to be far enough away from the loud noises of the bands and prevent getting hit by throws.
  • Have other family members or friends get to the route early to claim your spot. Wait until right before the parade rolls to show up with your child.
  • Make a visual schedule with the sequence of events for the day and talk to your child about what sounds, sights and other sensory input they may experience.
  • Limit the number of parades you attend. Spending an entire day on the parade route may be too overstimulating.
  • Bring noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs for your child to wear during the parade.
  • Don’t force a child to sit on top of the ladder. Let them stand on something closer to the ground or occasionally be held to view some of the floats.
  • Bring a bag to put beads and other trinkets in so they don’t have to be worn or held.
  • Come prepared with other activities to occupy your child when there are lulls in the parade, like fidgets, iPads or coloring books.
  • Dress in layers and prepare for rain. You never know what the weather could bring!
  • Bring sunglasses and a hat for daytime parades.
  • Know where a nearby restroom or other quiet place is in case your child needs some down time from the excitement.

Remember, it's always best to have a backup plan ready in case the situation become too overwhelming for your child.

When your child’s circumstances propel you into the world of medical subspecialties, it can be overwhelming. Ochsner’s Pediatric Therapy & Wellness team is here to lend expert, compassionate support, supply answers and develop a plan for progress to give your child the best opportunity to grow and develop. 

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