What are some ways for parents to manage sensory sensitivities in children with autism?
Managing sensory sensitivities in children with autism requires creating a supportive environment that respects and accommodates their unique sensory needs. Here are some effective ways for parents to manage sensory sensitivities:
- Identify triggers and patterns: Observe and identify specific sensory triggers that may cause discomfort or distress for your child. Note any patterns or situations that consistently lead to sensory sensitivities. This understanding will help you plan and implement appropriate strategies.
- Create a sensory-friendly environment: Modify the environment to be sensory-friendly by reducing sensory stimuli that may be overwhelming or aversive to your child. This can include adjusting lighting, minimising background noise, providing comfortable seating options, and organising spaces to minimize clutter.
- Offer sensory breaks and calming strategies: Teach your child techniques for self-regulation and provide opportunities for sensory breaks when needed. This can involve deep breathing exercises, using sensory tools like weighted blankets or fidget toys, or engaging in activities that provide a calming effect, such as listening to soothing music or engaging in gentle movement.
- Gradual exposure and desensitisation: Help your child gradually adapt to sensory stimuli that they find challenging by exposing them to these stimuli in a controlled and supportive manner. Start with low-intensity exposure and gradually increase the duration or intensity over time, allowing them to build tolerance and reduce sensitivity.
- Provide sensory accommodations: Offer accommodations that address your child’s sensory needs. This may include noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs to reduce auditory overload, sunglasses or visors to manage visual sensitivity, or comfortable clothing to address tactile sensitivities.
- Develop visual supports: Use visual supports, such as visual schedules, social stories, or cue cards, to help your child understand and prepare for sensory experiences. Visual supports can provide predictability and help alleviate anxiety related to sensory sensitivities.
- Collaborate with professionals: Seek guidance and support from professionals such as occupational therapists. They can provide assessments, strategies, and individualised interventions to address your child’s specific sensory needs.
- Advocate for accommodations: Advocate for your child’s sensory needs in educational settings, community activities, and public spaces. Work with teachers, school administrators, and other relevant professionals to ensure appropriate accommodations are in place to support your child’s sensory sensitivities.
- Respect your child’s limits: Recognise and respect your child’s limits when it comes to sensory stimuli. Allow them to communicate their discomfort and provide opportunities for them to self-advocate and make choices regarding their sensory experiences.
- Educate and involve others: Educate family members, caregivers, and others who interact with your child about their sensory sensitivities. Encourage them to understand and respect your child’s sensory needs, and provide guidance on how to create a supportive environment.
Remember that each child with autism has unique sensory sensitivities, and what works for one child may not work for another. It’s important to listen to and understand your child’s experiences, collaborate with professionals, and tailor strategies to meet their individual needs. By creating an environment that acknowledges and accommodates sensory sensitivities, parents can help their children manage and navigate the sensory aspects of their world more comfortably.
Leanne Hopkins is an Occupational Therapist at Succeed Healthcare Solutions and is passionate about creating a world where families thrive. If you are a member of the community who would like assistance with your child’s sensory sensitivities, please contact us and arrange a free 15-minute Discovery Interview to see how we can assist.