Our sensory systems need input to keep us at our most alert, happy and healthy in much the same way that our bodies need nutritious food and drink. For our children on the autism spectrum there are many things throughout the day that can unexpectedly trigger stress, anxiety and frustrations.
Whether this is through the sensory overload of sound, touch, or something else, autistic children can struggle to process and communicate these experiences.A child with a poor or disorganised response to sensory inputs may experience difficulties in the following areas:
- They may swing between a passive switched off state to become excited and overactive
- They could have difficulty sleeping
- They may be sluggish and take time to get going in the morning
- They may have an extreme emotional response to changes in routine
- They may find it difficult to control emotional responses and swing from anger to floods of tears
- They may have difficulty concentrating
- They may have excessive movement and talk constantly
- They may exhibit a defensive response to certain sensory inputs such as light, touch, sound and types of movement.
We also need to consider that all these behaviours can be affected and triggered by other factors such as:
- Their level of tiredness
- If they are unusually anxious
- Any disruption to their routine
- If they are ill.
You may recognise some or even all these responses in your child but as we all know, every child responds differently, and so it's all about trying different autism calming techniques and finding out what works to calm sensory overload in your child.
Many parents have found that one of the most effective calming techniques for autism is creating a sensory space in your home where your child can feel safe, secure, stimulated, and relaxed. This does not have to be a full sensory room; it can be a space you create where your child can relax and use a few sensory tools such as:
- Bean bags which are an excellent tool for kids with sensory processing disorder and/or autism.
- Weighted blankets are said to have the same calming effects of a deep hug
- Bubbles. Mindful breathing is a very effective calming strategy for kids and adults alike but learning how to use this technique can be challenging, particularly for small children.
- Noise Cancelling Headphones can help calm and reset a child who is overloaded by loud noises or a busy background environment.
I am sure you can think of many more useful tools, but you get the picture. It is also a great idea to have smaller tools such as stress balls and playdoh in your handy mum and dads backpack when out and about.
Many autistic children respond well to deep pressure, making them feel safe and helping their muscles to relax.
There are a number of ways to achieve this:
- A weighted blanket
- Layering several blankets
- A tight squeeze
I’d like to share with you two videos I have found useful which look at simple autism calming strategies and also how you can apply calming deep pressure touch at home.
I hope you have found these useful and next time I will be looking at how to create a safe space for your child at home.
Until then keep promoting autism awareness and fighting for autism acceptance.