- Written by Tom Schreck
Please click the link below to be directed to WNYT's website:
- Written by Tom Schreck
This weekend, the Siena Saints basketball team is playing a game under “sensory friendly” conditions. On January 5, the University of Albany Women’s team is doing a similar promotion.
A sensory friendly event, whether it be a sporting event, a movie or a concert, involves reducing sound volume, sometimes dimming lights or eliminating light shows and tailoring promotions to people who prefer less stimulation. The Siena event also has a quiet room for people who want to reduce stimulation even further.
For neuro-typical people (people who don’t live with a disability) these events may seem strange. We’ve become accustomed to flashing lights, over the top announcers and blaring stadium rock music. You may or may not like all the commotion but, even if you don’t like it, you can still tolerate it.
For some people tolerating it is far more challenging. For parents of people who struggle with excess stimulation it often means not being able to experience sports, movies and other events. When you’re child’s discomfort overrides any enjoyment it makes more sense just to stay away.
Staying away brings with it the isolation that we are trying so hard to rid in our society. If someone can enjoy an event under special sensory conditions might they then want to try it under the usual conditions? Perhaps, and with work, practice and the patience of a more accepting community, that has a better chance of happening. If not, then the sensory friendly event can still be an enjoyable time out.
So often, all a person needs is an invitation, some exposure and some time to experience and process things. Our society has become more tolerant and more and more people are becoming aware that not everyone has the same experience.
Sensory friendly events really help.
- Written by Tom Schreck
Tom Schreck, Director of Communications, Wildwood Programs
The Holidays can be days of wonderful family time filled with magic and happiness. They can also be a time filled with uncertainty, unpredictability and confusion. Lights, meeting with Santa Claus and visits from once-a-year visitors, make for days out of the ordinary and, for some, days out of a much needed daily structuring.
The Autism Society offers tips to help people and families impacted by autism navigate through the holidays. They are no guarantee that following them will bring peace to all, but applied with patience, they may help keep unhappiness to a minimum.
Preparation is crucial. For children who get anxious with too much lead time, preparation may involve just a day’s notice of what to expect, for others, it may be that the more time the better. Preparation can include social stories, photos of decorations and even photos of who will be attending. Spend some time thinking about what works best with your family member.
Decorations aren’t fun and welcome for everyone. Gauge how your family member responds to the changes shiny garland and a bright tree can bring.
“Lights that stay on continually are generally more calming than blinking lights, and traditional lights more calming than the LED style,” Bonnie McKeown, Wildwood School, occupational therapist said. “Have your child participate in making decorations and hanging them on the tree to encourage their enjoyment of the process.
If change is the biggest issue, consider decorating gradually and involving the family member each step of the way. Letting them know what is coming the next day can go a long way to preventing troubles.
When a child begins to obsess about a specific gift they are hoping to get, setting very specific boundaries about how often they can ask might be a necessary boundary. Keep it clear and specific so there’s no guess work and then stand firm.
Santa visits can be great fun if planned.
“Visiting Santa is a treasured tradition for many. Sensory friendly and special needs Santa visits occur all over the country. Check the Autism Speaks website for particular locations,” Bonnie said.
Have a plan for when an event gets overwhelming and have a plan for being able to leave such an event. Check in with your family member, give them specific options and talk about them ahead of time so if a crisis occurs no one will be caught off guard.
“Your child may need to take more frequent breaks from activities that are out of their routine. Even a few minutes in a quiet space, with low lighting and/or relaxing nature sounds or music can provide a needed respite and allow your child to be able to return to and fully enjoy all the season has to offer,” Bonnie said.
The holidays often involve travel. Remember to bring along the things that comfort and soothe. Keep that device charged, make room for a favorite toy or book and reinforce things that are comforting.
If your family member has dietary restrictions make sure there is always appetizing food available that they can eat. Bring their favorites and make it special in case others get to have the foods they can’t eat.
Involve the whole family as a support during these times and make sure the whole family, young and old, know the plans. Strategizing ahead of time will be time well spent and may save time and distress in the long run.
Here's some holiday gift ideas for children with special needs along with links to purchase them on Amazon.
Gifts Providing Olfactory Stimulation
Gifts Providing Auditory Input
Gifts providing Tactile and Proprioceptive Input
Gifts Providing Calming Visual Input