Say hello to the Brood X Cicada!
By now, you’ve probably met a few of this summer’s winged visitors. If you haven’t, they’re coming. Billions of cicadas are emerging across the United States this summer.
Brood X, also known as the Great Eastern Brood, has been underground since 2004, and they are currently surfacing and will produce the next generation of these fascinating cicadas. We are experiencing an extraordinary time as periodical cicadas are unique to the eastern U.S and emerge from underground once every 17 years. For some, this may be the first time experiencing this phenomenon, and while fascinating, these insects can also cause some trouble for children.
Cicadas can be very loud, especially when there are large numbers of them in a single space. Their song can reach as high as 100 decibels. That’s about as loud as a motorcycle! They also aren’t the prettiest creatures. They have big red eyes and large brownish-orange wings, which can be scary for children who aren’t insect-lovers.
But there is also good news about these buzzy friends: they are harmless. These insects don’t bite or sting. They are, however, clumsy fliers and may land on you or your child, which could cause some panic or anxiety.
To help explain and prepare children for the presence of cicadas through the first part of this summer, Celia Schloemer from the University of Cincinnati Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCCEDD) created a social narrative. When used correctly, this resource can be handy for parents as the cicadas arrive and for future cicada appearances.
To find the social narrative, visit the UCCEDD’s Resources page. Scroll to the section titled “Family Support” and click on the link under “Cicadas Social Narrative.”
The Power of Social Narratives
Social narratives are a helpful learning tool to teach children something new or explain new situations. They are beneficial for all children but especially useful for children with autism, sensory issues, or anxiety. They prepare children and often reduce stress or worry. The power is in their simplicity. They are visual and use simple language, which aids in children’s understanding. Going to the dentist, the first day of school, getting their blood drawn, and cicadas emerging are a few situations where the Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics would suggest families use social narratives.
How to Use Social Narratives
Social narratives are incredibly flexible! They can be paper or electronic. They can be all visual or visual with minimal text. They can be formatted like a book, electronic pdf, comic strip, or PowerPoint. You can even make your own using real pictures of your surroundings. The key is to understand your child’s learning style and choose the best format for them. Repetition is also important. Introducing this tool to your child once would make it difficult to understand all of the information. So, read “The Cicadas are Coming Soon: A Social Narrative” to your child before bedtime or leave it out in an area where it is accessible for them to explore independently to expose them repeatedly.
Advice to Prepare Children for Brood X
While using the social narrative above is a beneficial resource for preparing your child for Brood X, it isn’t my only advice for you.
- Positively frame the topic of cicadas. Explain that this a rare experience to witness, and the next time they see Brood X will be 17 years from now. Let your child explore cicadas in their way. Take them outside and find a cicada for them to look at and touch if they feel comfortable.
- Explain to your child that Brood X will only be visiting for a couple of months. It’s important for children to understand that Brood X will not be here permanently and this is phenomenon is only temporary. Then reassure your child that cicadas won’t hurt them during their visit.
- While I encourage outdoor activity, if your child wants to stay inside more than usual, know that is okay. If the insects are causing a lot of stress, your child should play inside temporarily. To encourage being outside, you can research when cicadas are least active and take your child outdoors during those times—even if it’s for a quick walk for them to get some fresh air.
- Use noise-canceling headphones. We know cicadas can be extremely loud, and for children with autism or sensory issues, it can be very upsetting. Use noise-canceling headphones to help your child tolerate the cicada’s singing.
We know these little creatures can be a lot for children to digest, but I hope that using the social narrative and following the advice above, it will bring your child comfort as they adjust. For additional training and to learn more, please visit the Division of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.