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Sensory overload – or sensory overstimulation – occurs when an individual is extremely sensitive to environmental stimuli. This results in avoidance of a particular task or activity due to a particular type of sensory input.
Examples of Overstimulation:
- The sound of other children screaming
- Car engines revving or car alarms going off
- Touch stimuli from bumping into others in a large crowd
- Strong odors or other smells
- Too many words on a page
How do I know if my child is overstimulated?
- Tantrums or irritability
- Covers eyes or ears
- Inability to focus on an activity
- Irritation from clothing
- Difficulty with social interactions
- High or low activity level – atypical compared to peers
Calming Activities for Kids:
- Let them jump around and stretch their arms out in a body sock.
- Allow them to read in a pea pod like this.
- Carrying a heavy box or basket of items from one room to another will provide them with the “heavy work” they need to give their muscles the sensory input they are seeking.
- Give them permission to do their work in a tent. The privacy of the tent removes the stimulation of the environment that may be frustrating for the child.
- Any movement in a linear back/forth motion can be calming for a child. (Think: rocking chair, running in a line back and forth). This is why you may see a child with autism self-soothing by rocking back and forth.
Calming Tools/Equipment for Kids:
- A weighted blanket can be used in the classroom or at home. During long periods of seat work or homework time, a weighted vest can be worn to help keep the child grounded.
- Fidget toys like these can be used for both stress relief and keeping their hands occupied.
- Deep pressure tank tops can be worn underneath their clothes. The compression and soft material provide just the right amount of sensory input.
- Sunglasses, headphones, and hats can be helpful accommodations for kids that need a little less stimulation in their environment.
- Calm down jars and kinetic sand or PlayDoh can give the child something to focus on besides their frustration.
Question of the Day:
- What are some calming strategies that work on you or your children?