• Understanding Autism from the Inside

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Autism – 5 Tips to Calm Anxiety Due to Sensory Overload

5 tips to calm overloadUse Earplugs or Noise Cancelling Headphones

Whether at home, school, or in a noisy supermarket the sounds coming at your child all at the same time can be an overwhelming experience. It is often difficult for the autistic individual with auditory processing issues (sensitivities to sounds) to filter out background noises that “normal” people do not even consciously register. This overwhelming assault of sounds can cause overload or meltdowns. Wearing earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones, especially while out in public where there are many loud noises can help calm and ease anxiety, and help your child cope better with their surroundings.

Be Prepared with an Extra Pair of Sunglasses

Another common problem that children and adults with autism experience extreme sensitivities to lighting. Lighting that can be particularly bothersome includes fluorescent lights both because of the flickering pulses of light and humming sounds they emit. These are troublesome in large stores, supermarkets, and many school settings. The outdoors can also be a cause for concern. Many times the sunlight is too bright making it difficult to see and the world to appear hazy. Having a pair (or a spare pair) of sunglasses on hand that can be worn both in or outdoors can be particular useful in these situations. Research has shown that sunglasses with a rose-colored tint are the most useful to those on the Autism Spectrum, and coming in second are brown-tinted glasses.

Dress Your Child in Soft Clothing with the Tags

Removed Tactile sensitivities (sensitivity to touch) are often seen in autistic children. Washing all new clothing before wearing them, soaking them in fabric softener, and removing all the tags can go a long way in easing your child’s sensitivity to fabrics.

Use a Firm Touch

Children with Autism often do not like to be touched, more specifically, they cannot tolerate the sensation of a light touch on their skins. Using a firm touch, a tight squeeze (or hug), or purchasing weighted blankets can ease their discomfort.

Stimming “Toys”

When children with sensory issues get overloaded or stressed, they often participate in “stimming” behaviors, or self-stimulation behaviors. Traveling or giving them access to stimming toys, such as squeezy balls (similar to a stress ball), or their favorite toy, or piece of fabric to rub can calm much of their anxiety and provide a healthy, relaxing outlet for their stress.

 

Jeannie Davide-Rivera

Jeannie is an award-winning author, the Answers.com Autism Category Expert, contributes to Autism Parenting Magazine, and the Thinking Person's Guide to Autism. She lives in New York with her husband and four sons, on the autism spectrum.