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.
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!