Homeschooling with Special Needs: Sensory Overload

Homeschooling with Special Needs

In my last Homeschooling with Special Needs post I discussed Homeschooling Sensory Seekers. Having one child on the Autism Spectrum, two children with Sensory Processing Disorder, and having Sensory Processing disorder myself, it is just as common in our household to have the possibility of sensory overload. Unfortunately, this can trickle down from one of them to all three of them and myself as well. Then our whole day is compromised!

Sensory overload generally happens when there is too much sensory input be it sounds, touch, etc. I, for one, am quick to get overloaded easily by touch. Background noise can really bother me as well if I am really trying to focus on something. It’s easy for me to know what bothers me, though. It’s a little more challenging, though, to know exactly what will set off the kids. Their triggers aren’t really consistent, but we do the best we can. The best thing you can do is try to identify and avoid the possible triggers.


We definitely can’t have loud background noise. Soft background noise like classical music or white noise (like a fan) can be nice and therapeutic, but if there are other types of background noise it is almost a guarantee our daughter will have a meltdown eventually. It will start with covering her ears, and if it’s not stopped immediately she will start shaking her head and YELLING that she can’t think until she is in full meltdown. If I’m not in tune with the triggers I at least have that moment where I can see that something is bothering her before she totally goes into overload. Depending on what it is, though, depends on whether or not I can stop it immediately.

My husband doing dishes? Yes, we can stop that immediately.

Our 3 year old rambling on about nothing sitting right next to us isn’t so easy to stop. In fact, stopping him can lead to a meltdown on his end, which would escalate the noise and escalate our daughter’s meltdown! Ideally I try to redirect him before it gets to her or try to engage him in activity before we have this situation and hope it works!

Ideally, strive to keep noise to a minimum when at all possible to avoid a sensory overload.

Sensory Overload


Everybody has different sensory responses, so again you might need to be aware of what your or your child’s triggers are. Generally in a homeschool setting there isn’t going to be a lot of sensory input in the form of others being in their space and touching them, which has a major advantage. When we do hands-on activities we do try to give each other space while still having quality time because I, too, get sensory overload from “too much touch.”

Touch also comes into play when it comes to textures. You may have planned some really great arts and crafts projects or a science project that involves a substance that your child doesn’t like to touch. Encourage them to try, but don’t force them. Forcing them is surely asking for sensory overload. We always try to encourage touching and handling of different substances and textures. It’s a great way to include therapy in your homeschool day! Take cues from them, though, and if they are signaling that it’s too much it’s a good idea to move on before sensory overload occurs. I always keep a washcloth handy in case one of them decides they MUST wipe off their hands NOW.

Scent and Sight

We don’t usually have a problem with scent or sight causing overload though our daughter is really sensitive to scent. We do try to keep a pleasant scent going. You can even use beneficial essential oils!

For sight be sure to keep the lights at a level that is comfortable for everyone and try to keep background visuals (including people walking around) to a minimum as this can be a distraction. It may not make sense to those that don’t have sensory concerns, but for those of us that do, anything in the background – sights, sounds, etc. can be VERY distracting.

So what if sensory overload happens?

Well, only you know yourself and/or your children. Can you or they bounce back or is it best to call it a day? There are times that I know it’s better to just call it a day. I can usually bounce back from my sensory overload after a short break, but our kids can’t always do so. First, we take a break – 5 min, 10 min, 15 min – whatever we need. If they still are worked up after that time then I know it’s time to call it a day. They aren’t able to learn in that state. Sometimes we even pick it up in the evening! Find what works for your family and go with it!

My 5 Days of Homeschooling with Special Needs was meant to be part of a large blog hop by other Schoolhouse Review Crew members. Although my posts are coming very late, you can still check out the blog hop by clicking on the picture below! Many different topics were covered!

Summer Blog Hop


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  1. Krista Bainbridge

    That is tough when there is sensory overload. When our youngest goes into meltdown mode, she likes to pull her favorite blanket over her head and have a few minutes alone. It usually works for her.

    • That is great that she found her own coping method! That’s always helpful. Aurora will close herself in her room for a while, which helps. Chaz, though, because he’s still young, isn’t able to help himself yet.

  2. Cheshire Cat says

    I love how your home-school experiences pertain to all kids on occasion, its so useful Thank you for sharing!

  3. Autumn~Bloggin Momma says

    This information can be use on my girls as well! Thank you for the advice!!!!

  4. Tiffany Hewlett says

    I wonder if this is why my 7 year old has meltdowns in the middle of the school day. He is always the last to finish, so the other kids are running around, playing, making noise…I wonder if he just needs quiet? Great post and tips!

  5. Sylina Heath says

    I am not a mom yet and am not sure if I’m going to home school. But I do love reading peoples advice on topics like this to help me with decisions in the future if I ever have to. This was very useful information thank you!

  6. Marisa Slusarcyk says

    My son has ADHD and is a straight A student but at home he has melt downs at the drop of a hate and we actually thought he would not do well at school because the things that set him off at home make him thrive at school! Go figure! I am happy you spend the time researching and helping your children to succeed to their highest potential. Many parents would just blame the school etc instead of learning their child and taking the time. You are amazing for doing all that you do and your children are very lucky! Bless you all!

  7. We are also a homeschooling family of 6…great post! We don’t have these struggles, but know many who do. We always attempt to encourage them in their journey and offer our help as best we can. Thanks for the post, it was very informative.

    • Brian, that is WONDERFUL! If it wasn’t for some of my homeschooling friends that don’t have special needs children, our oldest son might still be in public school (and maybe even our daughter since we now know she has special needs as well)! They may not have been able to relate to our exact situation, but they provided so much encouragement and support to lead me to seek the support we needed! Now I’m able to encourage others through my blog, so I’m so grateful!

  8. We aren’t currently homeschooling (my son is just turning three this month), but I appreciate the tips. We are definitely considering homeschooling him and his little brother, so this is good info to have on the senses.

  9. It’s great that you are able to accommodate your daughter wit homeschooling. I’m sure having a toddler around makes it a challenge. Sounds like you are doing a good job!

  10. Your children are very blessed to have you as their mommy! Not many mothers could be so patient with them 🙂 I wish you the best!

  11. So good your kids have you as a teacher. I do not know if I would be able to homeschool my children. Keep up your amazing work, kids are too precious. Will pray for you

  12. Thank you for offering this information. It really helps me understand it better. I’m sure plenty of people can benefit from learning more about what so many people are experiencing in relation to sensory overload.

  13. denise donaldson says

    Thank you for this info. My sister has an 3 year old son, that they just found out is Autistic. She is thinking about home schooling.

    • I do hope they stay encouraged! I posted for those that have a child with special needs and are considering homeschooling. I’m out of town right now and can’t post a link from my iPad right now, though! It’s in my homeschool posts. 🙂

  14. Thank you for the information. We see shows, read articles and assume so much about children that need extra care but it isn’t real to us until it touches our lives. I was blessed with two normal boys but my niece is working to get a good diagnosis for her son.

  15. Your kids are really blessed that you’re so invested in the best interest. You’re doing an awesome job.

  16. Thank you for the information.

  17. I wasn’t really aware of how sensory overload can affect a child. But I guess when you really think about it, it makes sense. I’ve always been the type to be distracted by noise, but never really looked at all the other senses that could be causing issues.

    Great that you are able and willing to homeschool your children to help them do their best!

    -Ana (MommysBundle)

  18. Jamie Jones Duponte says

    I too homeschool a kiddo that struggles with sensory overload, and noise is a trigger, he often chooses to wear those huge ear protection mufflers that you would wear to shoot a gun. They work really well, and allows him comfort when he need quiet in his head.
    Great job working with your kids to help them each with the areas they struggle, best wishes for a good school year!

    • Thanks! That might be a good idea for our daughter when she gets older and does more independent work. Right now I teach her and her older brother together because they’re on the same learning level, so she needs to hear me. 🙂 Thanks for the idea, though! I see it coming in handy in the near future!

  19. Health Homeschool Family says

    Thank you for sharing your family with us! I am sure it is nice to know the triggers for the most part! You are a blessing to your kids and they are lucky you are able to homeschool them. Thanks for sharing!

  20. Always helpful to read posts like this. It’s also great that you are stepping forward and describing your sensory triggers. I think we all think of sensory overload in regard to children, but we don’t think of how we deal with these things as adults. Or that we are used to dealing with them as opposed to children who are just learning.

  21. Chinky ( says

    Reading posts like this are really helpful for parents who only want the best for their children! I think we can all learn something about cutting back on the “noise” in our lives – so we can focus on what is truly essential —-> family!

    I really admire mothers who homeschool! All the best for your family! 🙂

  22. My goodness! I can’t imaine this. My hat goes off to you. I would think it would be hard enough to homeschool, but when you add special needs–well, I can certainly see the benefits. After all, I don’t think I would want my special needs child in the public school. There are some great programs out there, but most are truly just glorified babysitting.

  23. Kelly Becker VanHoveln says

    Wow, this is really interesting. I’m not officially diagnosed with anything, but I get very easily overwhelmed with noise or in really busy places (shopping malls are the worst). I can’t deal with radio on in the background and my kids’ chatting/singing/fighting can make me crazy. Good to know I’m not alone! Thanks for sharing!

  24. You are to be commended for all the work and patience you give to your children. Understanding their daily needs is so important and it seems that you are able to tune into how they change with the day. I work with children at out elememtary school and this has helped me understand them better. Thanks!

  25. Ashley Pomykala says

    You have so many great tips. These really are important and I know that they will be slightly different for each person as they react to things differently that someone else with the same issues. I commend you for being able to do so much for your children.

  26. This is a great article! It will help a lot of parents who have special needs child. Thank you for sharing this!

  27. Michelle Barbour says

    This is such a great post with wonderful information. We have a 23 year old with Autism who lives with us and while I feel like I know him pretty well, I still am going to come away from reading this with some new insight and ideas. THanks!

  28. really amazing post, you have some amazing helpful tips here for people. I used to do daycare and had a autisitc child in my care, these are spot on for sure, especially with noises and movement distractions.

  29. This is a wonderful and informative post. My nephew was diagnosed with autism as an infant and needed very intensive full day therapy which he received both in the home and at school. While each case is unique in itself, he has come a long way and today while not 100%, he is thriving in kindergarten!

  30. MamaMommyMom says

    Even without special needs, my daughter suffers from sensory overload often. I really have to be careful to control the environment when she’s trying to get homework done or really anything where I need her to direct her energy in one place.

  31. Great post. It is good to know some things to watch for as my son grows, although he has not been diagnosed with anything even I get sensory overload from sounds and wonder if he will have anything similar.

  32. Great tips! As a father of a child with autism and sensory processing disorder, I know just what you mean and how you feel. It is usually a balancing and juggling act to recognize triggers and ward off the upcoming sensory overload. Your children are lucky to have someone who understands how they feel and can help them navigate when things are overwhelming.

  33. This was an educational read for me, thank you so much for sharing. I am off to read through your other posts as this really has me intrigued. Bless you!

  34. This is very interesting and thank you for sharing it! My little guy is still a few years off from school and you never know what you will encounter but I like how you broke this up. Have a good one!

  35. I was a FMD helper in High School and my favorite little guy, his name was David had this! It was frightening for him when the bells would ring, during meeting in the gym such as pep rallies, and even someone talking loud. I think you made the perfect choice to home school!

  36. How beautiful that you are so attuned to what your children need! Really informative post.

  37. Sarah Parsons says

    You certainly have a lot of considerations that I don’t – thanks for the reminder to think through challenges others face that wouldn’t ever occur to me.

  38. Nicole Baptist says

    I wish I could home school my kids but unfortunately, I have to work full-time and I cannot do so at this time. However, for those who have the benefit of doing so – I commend you. Especially, when you have a special needs child – often, they are not given the proper treatment by staff or the attention needed or deserved to help them learn in a way best suited for each individual child.

    • Yes, this is very true. Our oldest actually attended public school for 2 weeks because I thought I “couldn’t handle” homeschooling him. Well, I couldn’t handle how things were going at public school, and I’m so glad we made the decision to bring him home for homeschooling!

  39. SmSpaceBgDream says

    As an introvert, I have sensory overload constantly. I never understood what was happening until I had my son, though. I’m grateful to have the ability to hone in on his needs because of it because sensory overload is no fun!

  40. This is very informative, thank you. My son isn’t school-aged yet, but we plan to homeschool. I don’t know yet, if he’ll have any special needs, but it’s good to be informed just in case (and to be more understanding of others).

  41. My oldest son went to a special needs program when he was younger,it worked wonders and now he is in reg school but still has a couple of special ed classes a week just for him.He went from Austism,now ADD with ADHD and still on the spectrum.I send him to reg school because he wants to keep up with the other children,it’s a great motivation for him.

  42. Looking back, now how I wish I had home-schooled my child! She just never fit in in the public schools – sensory overload was the least of her problems. This article should help so many other mothers – before it’s too late for their little ones. I would sell my soul for a time machine so I could back and homeschool her!

  43. I teach an after-school Good News Club (Bible club) and this information is so helpful. I know that when I start to cook dinner I don’t want any noise. I turn of Christian radio and try to keep this calm. I can’t imagine how hard it must be to be homeschooling and have children with sensory overload issues. I pray for your children & for you that God would bless your efforts and help you creatively handle your school day. As a former homeschooling mom, I know that God always provided and I have two intelligent, productive, career-minded adult children to prove it.

  44. Gale McCarron

    I have a Son that has adhd and during his school years I was totally beside myself with feelings of frustration and helplessness. I certainly could have used this information back then. Somehow we survive with the help of special ed teachers. God bless them all!!!

  45. Sandra Beeman says

    Firstly, I’d like to compliment you on your willingness, patience love in this undertaking. I have a special needs family member with some of these same issues and I know it can be a daunting task to teach him. That we both understand sensory issues is a plus to these special children and their learning success.

  46. aqualityhost says

    Thanks for this post. I homeschooled my children long before there were
    many diagnoses of ADHD or sensory overload, but looking back I can see
    that I’ve always had ADD and my oldest daughter did as well. Several of
    my children had some evidence of sensory overload too, as do their own
    children. Now I’m homeschooling the two young grandboys with whom I
    live, and the youngest has many neurological problems including a major
    problem processing speech, which often leads to meltdowns and other
    behavioral issues, so I appreciate reading about what others have done
    to help special needs children.

  47. As a teacher, a Mom, and now a Grandma who is staying home with her two grandsons I commend what you are doing. Even without special needs sensory overload can be a sensitive issue.

  48. kathy downey

    Thanks for the great post and tips,and i really found all the comments also helpful.Thanks and blessing to you and your children.

  49. Your Children are very blessed and lucky to have a mother like you. You are more “in tune” to what they need and how they react to something much more than an “outsider” would be. You guys are in the Army, Right? The reason I ask is that my Oldest Daughter is married to an Army man. They just recently moved from Fort Knox to, I believe, Fort Campbell (still in KY but closer to TN now). My grandson has asbergers (spelling??) which is the highest form of Autism. And, whenever, I speak with my daughter, she always mentions about him having a “meltdown”. In the move, she found out now that her house has asbestos and mold in it and the Army will not move them to a different house stating that it’s at a tolerable level and it won’t harm them. Her new pediatrician doesn’t believe that he’s got this problem, even with videos of him screaming, beating his head on the wall till it bleeds, beating his little sister, etc. He’s only going to be 4 this Oct. In reading Your piece, when you mention “trigger” it made me think of my grandson! My daughter is fighting like anything to get him a solid diagnosis and get the proper help for him that he needs! Every time I read about the different things that “trigger” your children, I just kept thinking of him! Anyway, I have much respect for you as a mother, wife and person. You go through an awful lot to make sure your children get the proper care and learning! I think that is a special quality to have! Thanks for sharing your information with all of us! I do appreciate it! Thanks Again, Michele 🙂
    Michele Ash recently posted…Partner with Little Passports for your FundraiserMy Profile

    • That can be so hard when you just know something more is going on and the doctor’s just don’t see it. I pray she is able to get answers and proper therapy referrals if needed. Has she gotten any help from EFMP? They may be able to help with both referrals to the correct doctors as well as possibly getting an EFMP move to a different house. They helped us when we needed to move to a one-story home because the stairs were a danger zone with our oldest son’s behavior. My husband medically retired from the Army almost one year ago, but I’m happy to connect with her if she is needing resources! Please let me know!
      Emilee recently posted…Partner with Little Passports for your FundraiserMy Profile

  50. Great advice! Thanks so much for sharing your experience.

  51. Thank you for this post. I can think of several children with ADHD who also have experience with too much stimuli at once.

  52. I have found that with such children it also helps to speak softly, in a calm, even tone. This way, there is less of a chance of an auditory problem with sensory overload. I also would suggest that there not be too many things in the work area to visually distract the student.

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