Dealing with sensory overload in kids with autism this Diwali
As Diwali is round the corner, parents and caretakers must be careful as children with autism or other developmental disorders are more sensitive to their environment. The severity of sensitivity varies as every child is unique and has individual responses to external stimuli such as noises, lights, etc. Festivals and celebrations can be particularly disturbing time for children with autism.
Many environmental factors can children with autism nervous, anxious or result in sensory overloads. While some children are able to cope with the changes in surroundings, others may be affected more.
During festivals like Diwali, houses, markets, streets, building are decorated with bright, colorful, disco lights that change color and patterns. Music is played loudly at parties while crackers are burst without warnings. There are guests, relatives and people visiting each other more often during festivals. All these changes in a set daily routine and surrounding can be disturbing for children with autism.
Important issues will be cracker sounds. Some children eat lots of sweets and savoury which may upset their stomach (autistic children have very sensitive guts). Friends and relatives visiting can be an issue as autistic children are not very good at socializing and can get anxious. Sumathi , parent.
Here are a few things to consider:
- It is important to understand that children with autism are sensitive to noises, lights etc.
- Many children with children with autism do not like being around strangers or large crowds.
- Some children get extremely upset when they are hugged or touched by people.
- Every child behaves differently through environmental changes.
- It is advisable to set up a silent room or corner for the children with autism, where they can go to take a break.
- Put dark curtains and use dim lights in the rooms that children may feel safer.
- Noise canceling earmuffs, earphones can also be used when children get scared of firecrackers or loud music.
- Keep an eye on what the children are eating. Too much sweet, sugar and fried food is not good for children with autism and can cause digestive problems.
- Children may not like being around people and being touched by them.
- Parents can help the children understand that guests are expected by explaining to them beforehand.
- Guests can also be told about the likes and dislikes of the child.
- Children should not be forced to meet and greet guests if they don’t like it.
Deepthi Mathews, a parent feels that children can be taught to cope with sensory issues and appreciation can go a long way in keeping them motivated to keep trying.
“Everybody needs encouragements to move forward and do greater things. The clap need not be given at the end of the activity but whenever the child takes a positive move. Spotlighting his great moves will register them in his memory and he will use them in such future situations,” says Deepthi Mathews.
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