Though each and every person who receives an autism diagnosis experiences autism differently, there are often symptoms that overlap with each other and are experienced by a vast number of people. For example, children with autism often deal with some form of sensory regulation.
What is sensory regulation?
Sensory regulation refers to the way in which we respond to certain stimuli. This could include sensitivity to:
– Sight (Specific colors or levels of brightness)
– Touch (Certain textures or materials)
– Taste (The taste, or texture of certain foods)
– Sound (Specific sounds or levels of volumes)
– Temperature (Heat, or the cold)
For example, you may not like how a knitted jumper feels on your skin because it is made of itchy material. Alternatively, you may choose to avoid certain foods due to their texture instead of their actual taste. Our responses to certain stimuli can be broken down into two sections:
Hypersensitive. Generally, a hypersensitive response refers to an overactive response to certain stimuli – wherein the child will make their displeasure clear and actively avoid that object in the future.
Hyposensitive. A hyposensitive response often refers to an under-reaction, or perhaps more succinctly, a lack of reaction to certain stimuli. For example, children with autism sometimes do not respond to body signals in the same way as a neurotypical person, meaning that they may have poor balance.
How can I help my child work through sensory issues?
Thankfully, there are various steps you can take to help your child address (and combat) their sensory issues.
Here are some great examples to get them started.
Dealing with hypersensitivity.
– Find the cause of their discomfort, and try to figure out exactly what makes it uncomfortable for them. For example, they may say that they don’t like certain clothes when in actuality, they dislike the sensation caused by the label on the inside. Alternatively, they may say they don’t like having a bath – but may actually be responding to the temperature of the water. Encourage them to use descriptive language when explaining themselves so that you can work towards a resolution quickly.
– Where possible, avoid situations where you know your child will feel overstimulated. For example, if they are susceptible to loud noises – then you may want to avoid busy areas such as public transport during peak hours. If this is impossible, you could provide your child with headphones that block out the bulk of the noise.
– Use arts and crafts to introduce new textures to your child gradually. For example, you could spend some time putting together a collage using materials you find around the house – encouraging them to use things that they may not have felt entirely comfortable with in the past. This is a great way to slowly and safely expose them to new sensations in an environment where they feel comfortable.
– Find ways to help them remain calm if they feel overstimulated or oversensitive. For example, you should always find a way to help them step away from situations that make them feel uncomfortable – as remaining in the situation is often not the best step to resolving the issue.
Dealing with hyposensitivity.
– If your child deals with hyposensitivity that results in lower body awareness, it may mean that they struggle with balance and coordination. You can help them improve these skills by participating in fitness activities, which often help children and young people become more aware of their bodies and how they move.
– Help them gain a deeper awareness of what is happening around them by focusing on ground techniques. For example, if they appear to be lacking in focus, ask them to list: 5 things they can see, 4 things they can touch, and 3 things they can hear.
– Surround them with objects that can stimulate their senses. For example, this could include a fidget spinner or cube. Studies show that these tools can be handy when they are trying to concentrate.
At Alee Behavioral, we have years of experience working with children with autism and related disorders, helping them reach their full potential. We offer a range of specialized therapy services, from speech therapy to applied behavioral analysis, that can help them adjust to any issues they may be facing – whether that means sensory regulation or processing change. Get in touch today to find out how we could help your family!