5 Tips To Manage Sensory Sensitivities

Everyone responds to different sensory experiences in different ways, there are some sensations that we enjoy and others that we might dislike or even find unpleasant or distressing.  Christmas is a time of year often associated with a range of sensory experiences, such as the sound of Christmas songs, the different Christmas lights and the smells of seasonal foods. While these sensations may be enjoyable for some the new and increased sensory stimuli may be challenging for others, in particular those with neurodevelopmental conditions, such as autism and ADHD.

  1. Be aware of the sensory difference of yourself or others and attempt to accommodate them. This may mean turning down volume of the Christmas songs on the radio, adjusting the setting on the Christmas lights so they shimmer rather than flash, altering the Christmas dinner menu, or reducing the competing noise of those with new electronic devices by asking those using them to wear headphones.
  2. People and crowds bring lots of additional stimuli and so access shops and supermarkets at quieter times. Some shops and supermarkets have allocated “quiet hours”. If you are unable to go during these specifically allocated quieter times then plan to go at times of day when you know it is likely to be less busy and there will be fewer people around, for example early in the morning or, if accessing a 24-hour supermarket, later at night.  When out and about take enjoy sensations with you, such as wearing headphones to listen to favourite music, putting favourite perfume or fragrance on a scarf or carrying a piece of material that feels nice in a pocket.  
  3. Plan in breaks throughout the day to allow time to be spent away from excess sensory stimuli. For example, at a specific time go out for a walk somewhere quite or plan time to be in a room alone. These rests and breaks should be planned in throughout the day and should be used to prevent sensory input building and not just be done as a response to things getting too much to manage.    
  4. Try to control or reduce the input of one sense to help cope with stimuli to other senses.  For example, eliminating the sense of sound by wearing noise cancelling headphone may help to manage difficult smells or closing eyes may help to cope with a noisy environment.   
  5. Engage in enjoyable sensory activities. Identify the seasonal tastes, smells, sounds, sights and feelings that are enjoyable and utilise these.  Whether it is lighting favourite candles, cooking favourite foods, listening to enjoyable music, wrapping up tight in a favourite blanket or adjusting lighting to the preferred setting, ensure that the sensory sensations are right and enjoyable for everyone.

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