Until I personally experienced sensory overload, I could not understand this concept. I made visual schedules, social stories, and used desensitization training to help my students with autism spectrum disorders. Then one Christmas morning I awoke without vision in my left eye. It vastly changed how I was experiencing everything around me. After treatment, I eventually healed. But, the experience changed me.
Can you imagine how overwhelming the holidays are for a child with a sensory disorder? Noises, Santa suits, decorations sparkling everywhere. I would highly encourage families of these individuals to consider a few changes this holiday season.
- Choose fewer holiday decorations.
- Make a visual calendar to mark out days to countdown for a holiday.
- Avoid serving food that your loved one cannot tolerate. Even the smell can overload them.
- When planning an outing to the mall or see Santa, listen to them. When they hit the overload point, they require a break from the noise, visual stimuli, smells, etc. There is no amount of cajoling. They cannot function anymore.
- Slow down. People will understand if you’re running a little behind in order to help your family member transition peacefully. Pushing them to go faster can and will create a problem for everyone involved. Extend yourself some grace this holiday season.