The summertime brings a lot of opportunities and experiences with busy or large crowds, hot weather, bright lights, loud music, and new or different foods. It is important to realize that many of these experiences can easily cause sensory overload for some children resulting in an overreaction, meltdown, or other sensory-related behavior. Despite the possibility of sensory overload during summer vacation, summer can be enjoyable for children with autism and their families. Here are some tips for reducing sensory overload and meltdowns.
Identify Your Child’s Triggers
Being aware of your child’s sensory triggers is part of being proactive and planning to prevent sensory overload. It is beneficial to take the time to identify the specific things that might trigger your child to experience sensory overload. For example, things like bright lights, loud noises, strong scents, or large crowds can quickly overwhelm your child. You know your child best and can make a big difference in how your child experiences the summer if you take some time to think about their triggers.
Create a Schedule
It is important to give your child a schedule of events for special activities, especially on days with lots of transitions. Whether it’s a written schedule or a visual one, your child will feel calmer and safer knowing what is coming next. If you have a list of activities, let your child cross each one off once they are complete. Sometimes just knowing what is happening next can help children with behavioral and sensory issues feel less anxious.
Bring a Sensory Tool Kit
Children with significant sensory sensitivities may require extra planning to enjoy a day full of summer fun. For example, you may need earplugs if you are in a noisy environment or sensory toys if your child is expected to sit still. If they have to wear dress clothes for events, bring along some soft clothes for your child to change into as soon as possible. Consider allowing your child to bring a small backpack filled with comfort and sensory items. It is essential to know your child’s specific limitations and how to handle them if the need arises. Don’t wait for the meltdown to begin.
Have a Code Word
Have your child choose a specific code word to use if they feel overwhelmed and need a break. Assure your child if they use the code word, you will respond right away and give them what they need. Giving children a sense of control during activities that may be overstimulating will reduce anxiety and help them stay calm and organized. Knowing they have a way “out” is important in navigating new situations.
The Connections Therapy Center
The Connections Therapy Center serves families of children and adolescents with disabilities and special needs. We are a team of experts in the fields of pediatric speech, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, and behavioral sciences. As a team, we offer intensive hands-on therapy for children and adolescents, as well as informative and useful resources for families. If you are interested in learning more about what we can do to help your family, visit us online or give us a call at (301) 577-4333. Want to get more information on how to help your child thrive? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Pinterest.