Category Archives: Sensory Series

Sensory Series – Hyper-auditory: Resources or equipment to support

Hyper-auditory: Resources or equipment to support

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It could be argued that hypersensitivity to the noise is the most well-known sensory issue in terms of autism. Whilst this is a good place to start in terms of public understanding of autism and sensory processing, it does mean it sometimes overshadows over sensory needs.

Regardless, the world can be a noisy place and when you’re hypersensitive to noise it can make that world so much harder to navigate. On the plus side, because there is more awareness of auditory hypersensitivity, there are also more resources.

Ear Defenders/Ear Plugs

Perhaps an obvious place to start, but an important one. Ear defenders come in all sorts of shapes and sizes to fit different heads and to accommodate preferences. Ear plug come in a range of material including foam, wax and plastic. These options also have the advantage of being relatively cheap. I wear a pair of Silverline eardefenders that I bought from Amazon for about £7, and use plastic travel ear plugs that cost £3 and can be thoroughly cleaned and reused.

Headphones

Noise cancelling headphones have the distinct advantage here, but there should be caution in providing headphones with music playing if the individual has difficulties with awareness of their surroundings. Music can be great for blocking out noises that would otherwise overwhelm us but it’s also very easy to miss the dangers around us when we do. There have been a number of non-autistic people killed because they were so focused on their music they didn’t take in danger – make sure you teach safety as well as providing this tool.

Noise cancelling headphones can be brilliant on their own, without music. I have a pair of Lindy NC40 provided via my Disabled Student’s Allowance (for use with another piece of kit I’ll mention later) and they are around £40 RRP. They’re not fantastic but they make a noticeable difference to my ability to function without getting overloaded. They block out a fair bit of background noise whilst retaining your ability to hear speech. The often quoted “Gold Standard” for noise cancelling headphones are the Bose QuietComforts but they come in at about £250 new. Which is a lot of money to put down on headphones. Headphones are typically one area where you get what you pay for, but you may still see enormous benefits with some of the lower cost items.

Roger Focus and Roger Pens

Disclaimer – these aren’t likely to be things most people can afford to buy out of pocket BUT I received this through my Disabled Students Allowance, so others may be able to use similar disability money. The Roger Pen was typically designed for individuals with hearing impairments – the speaker either wears the pen or you point it at them and it transmits to a receiver you wear around your neck. For individuals who wear hearing aids, the receiver then links to the hearing aids and allows them to hear the speakers more clearly. For autism there are two main options: the first is the Roger Focus receiver – which are hearing aids specifically designed for use with the Roger Pen, which have been designed and adapted following feedback from autistic students. The second is the method I use which is to use a cable to link my noise cancelling headphones up to the receiver – and the impact it has is incredible. If you are entitled to disability allowance of any sort – worth looking into these.

Access to a Quiet Space

Whether at school or at home – the option for an individual with hyperhearing to retreat to a quiet space where they can self-regulate is an important one. At school it might be beneficial to teach the student to use “Quiet Time” cards such as this. If there is a persistent noise then the student can take their work down to the Quiet Space and complete their work there – usually with guidance or support from a teaching assistant. Otherwise, a short time out to self-regulate might be what they need to come back and re-engage with the lesson – perhaps with one of the afore mentioned resources offered.


Disclaimer: The opinions and information provided in this post are my own, and based on personal, educational, and work-based experience. They do not reflect the opinions of any of the authors of the content referenced in this post. I am not affiliated or supported by any organisation, and this is meant to be an educational series of posts. The information posted here is not a substitute for advice and information provided by your own GP, speech and language therapist, occupational therapist or other professional in the field of autism, and should not be taken as such

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Sensory Series – Hypo-visual: Resources or equipment to support

Hypo-visual: Resources or equipment to support

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Being under sensitive to visual input can have a huge impact on someone’s home, community, and school life. It can make completing school work difficult, make finding things hard, or even result in dangerous situations. Hopefully some of the suggestions in this post will be helpful resources for those who are hypo-sensitive:

  • High contrasting work sheets – Standard worksheets that we use in schools (especially since we tend to photocopy/print in grey-scale due to budget constraints) may be completely useless for someone who is hypo-visual. Using bold contrasts and specific colours to highlight the important information can make school work a lot more accessible.
  • Well lit work space/spot light –  Now this could have the unintended effect on the individual seeking sensory input from the light, but may have benefits by putting spot light on the work space and tasks, providing more visual input from that area.
  • Coloured Lens Sunglasses – Now this might seem counter intuitive but this is for individuals who sensory seek by doing things like staring intently at the sun or at spotlights. Obviously this can be damaging to the eyes and it might be difficult to completely stop them – regular sunglasses could dull the sensory input they desire but experimenting with sunglasses with different coloured lenses might identify a colour that satisfies sensory seeking whilst helping to protect eyesight.
  • Videos to explain topics – Those who are visual seeking may find it difficult to learn through listening to the teacher talk, listening to parental instructions, or if presented with visual supports like pictures. A short video, either from somewhere like YouTube or filmed by those who know the individual could help to convey the information better as it is a more visually stimulating format. This combined with positive data for video modelling makes this method worth trying.
  • Handrails – This helps those who find navigating stairs difficult due to being hypo-visual. Most larger stairs have handrails, but if they don’t then they should because it is not just those who are hypo-visual that benefit. However, the hypo-sensitivity doesn’t go away just because there are only three or four stairs. Installing handrails or brightly coloured hand-holds of some description could greatly assistant stair navigation.
  • Important items are brightly coloured – This isn’t a resource so much as a strategy for multiple resources. For a student – make all of their equipment the same, bright colour so it is easier for them to locate. At home a child, adolescent or adult could decide on their preferred or most easily located colour and this could be used to colour coded important items for them. If you know yourself that you are hypo-visual then you can do the same thing and code the important things you need to remember so you don’t forget them – keys can be painted or topped with brightly coloured caps, oyster cards or bus passes can be put in colourful wallets, and wallets and many other essentials can be purchased in a wide array of colours.

This is not a definitive list but hopefully it is useful for some people – feel free to let me know your experiences with being hypo-visual in the comments or share other resources you have found.

Until next time.


Disclaimer: The opinions and information provided in this post are my own, and based on personal, educational, and work-based experience. They do not reflect the opinions of any of the authors of the content referenced in this post. I am not affiliated or supported by any organisation, and this is meant to be an educational series of posts. The information posted here is not a substitute for advice and information provided by your own GP, speech and language therapist, occupational therapist or other professional in the field of autism, and should not be taken as such.

Sensory Series – Hyper-visual: Resources or equipment to support

Hyper-visual: Resources or equipment to support

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If you or someone you know is hypersensitive to visual sensory information, what exactly can you give them or provide for them to help? Most of it depends on the individual and their specific needs, but in this post I hope to give some things that can be used to help with hyper-visual needs.

  • Sunglasses – this is an obvious one I know, but providing an individual with sunglasses and teaching them how to recognise when they need to put them on can be invaluable. If the individual needs to wear sunglasses in the classroom sometimes then so be it, if it helps them then what does it matter? Obviously it’s not a good idea to wear sunglasses all the time so make sure the individual has some places they can go and be without needing to wear them.
  • Irlen glasses – Glasses with coloured lenses. A tricky one, because it can be very difficult to assess whether someone would benefit from the use of Irlen glasses. This is one where you’re going to need to get someone (an Occupational Therapist) to assess whether they’re needed. You might go down this investigative route if you notice that an individual appears calmer when in certain coloured rooms or under certain coloured lighting.
  • Different coloured paper or overlays – Tied to the same sensory processing as Irlen glasses, some people read and write better when they are given paper other than white or off-white to write and read from. This one is much easier to check though, just try it out and if it seems to work based on your data collection then carry on using that coloured paper.
  • Black out tent – Essentially a pop-up tent that is made from material designed to block out light. Inside is completely dark once the windows and doors are rolled down. These can be especially useful for hyper-visual individuals, and providing time in here may help them to self-regulate and avoid experiencing sensory overload and meltdowns.
  • Sensory swing – Same sort of concept as the black out tent, except they are usually heavier material in a sort of “scooped up” hammock style so that both ends are tied up high and the swing is like a pouch. As well as blocking out visual input, this can simultaneously provide proprioreceptive input for the individual as well.
  • Individual work station – I get that it doesn’t look like traditional inclusion, but if the option of working at one of these stations in the classroom is available then hyper-visual students can benefit from the lack of distracting visual information in front of them.
  • Desk dividers – Less cumbersome than individual workstations, these can be put on and taken off of desks to help reduce the visual information that is competing for a student’s attention.
  • Sheet to limit information on page – I’m sure there’s a name for this but, essentially an A5/A4 piece of paper that has a section cut out so that the individual only has to focus on a small amount of text or information at once.

I will be making a post in the future with a list of different places to buy these sorts of resources, so if you want you can send me any links you have (UK and International) and I’ll add them in.

Until next time.


Disclaimer: The opinions and information provided in this post are my own, and based on personal, educational, and work-based experience. They do not reflect the opinions of any of the authors of the content referenced in this post. I am not affiliated or supported by any organisation, and this is meant to be an educational series of posts. The information posted here is not a substitute for advice and information provided by your own GP, speech and language therapist, occupational therapist or other professional in the field of autism, and should not be taken as such.

Sensory Series – Tantrum or Meltdown? What’s the difference?

Tantrum or Meltdown? What’s the difference?

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The terms meltdown and tantrum are often used interchangeably when discussing autistic people (although predominantly autistic children), but they are two very different things and it is important to distinguish between the two.

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Sensory Series – Nociception

Introduction to Nociception

Pain

Pain is generally how people know that something isn’t quite right with their body – it seems natural to assume that everyone must perceive pain similarly. There are those with higher pain thresholds and lower pain thresholds, and whilst this might be an indication of differences in nociception, it is quite different to some of the reactions or lack of reactions to pain that have been recorded anecdotally in autism and sensory processing disorder.

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Sensory Series – Interoception

Introduction to Interoception

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After covering the five well known senses, and the two that are slowly coming into general awareness – it is necessary to move onto the senses that are less well known. Arguably interoception could also cover some of the other, future posts but I think that it can be easier to separate it somewhat.

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Sensory Series – Proprioreception

Introduction to Proprioreception

Proprioceptive

Along with the vestibular sense, the proprioreceptive sense is gaining awareness and understanding at least within the professional fields associated with autism and sensory processing disorder. Proprioreception is our position sense, and it underlies our ability to position our body parts in space, be aware of our body without looking, and grade movements, force and pressure.

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Sensory Series – Vestibular

Introduction to Vestibular

Vestibular

Outside of the five well-known senses, a lot of research and information is becoming available on the vestibular sense and how it impacts autistic people and those with sensory processing disorder. The vestibular sense is essentially how our body is moving, it’s position, and how it balances; as a result both fine and gross motor skills can be affected by the vestibular sense.

Continue reading Sensory Series – Vestibular