Things That Sensory Products Help With

Sensory Products For Autism Spectrum and Sensory Processing Disorder

Despite what some may have you believe about sensory issues being equal for individuals on the spectrum, we’re here to tell you otherwise. Sensory issues aren’t made equal. In fact, because sensory disorders affect the brain and have such a wide intensity spectrum from person to person, that finding the perfect product that soothes the sensory individual can become both frustrating and cumbersome. We hope that you find our selection and product breakdown informative and helpful!

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What comes natural to most, is seen as a superpower to sensory individuals. For example, listening to a person tell you about their weekend at work while the coffee machine is doing its thing is a normal site at the office. It’s an interaction that happens so often that we eventually just stop listening and most of the time it’s by choice. No one cares about Karen’s weekend of weeding her garden. But what if someone really wanted to listen to Karen’s story but simply just couldn’t? What if the only way for them to comprehend Karen’s uneventful weekend was away from the coffee maker, away from the god-awful fluorescent lighting, and in a quiet room? These unique sensory scenarios either require tailor made environments or special sensory products made to aid an individual in processing these emotions. If we don’t remove the environmental irritant or pacify the feelings that come along with irritation, a meltdown becomes unavoidable.

What are sensory toys and why are they important for individuals sensory processing issues on the autism spectrum?

Sensory toys or aids are made to accommodate a sensory individual’s unique DNA and ideal environment. While some products are made especially tailored for sensory people, many mass products can be retro-fitted against a person’s sensory need with simple trial and error. For instance, an item like toothpaste comes in multiple colors, tastes, and textures. While one brand can be gritty and produce a negative sensory feeling, another can be smooth, and feel just right. And because these issues sit on such a wide spectrum of preference, having a one size fits all product is quite difficult to hone in on.

What Do Sensory Toys Do and Help With? And How?

Simply put, sensory aids and toys aim to improve sensory lives and make otherwise things that are difficult to deal with a little bit easier. These lifestyle improvements are accomplished by the product’s design by catering to the specific stimming needs of the sensory individual.

There are two types of sensory processing challenges over-sensitivity (hypersensitivity, sensory avoiding) and under sensitivity (hypo-sensitivity, sensory seeking)

Symptoms of Sensory Hypersensitivity

Texture Irritation

  • Clothing Labels – a good rule of thumb when it comes to clothing labels is to simply say no!
  • Certain Fabrics
  • Oral Hygiene – Struggling to brush teeth can be a real nightmare to a sensory individual. When it comes to toothpastes, problems may arise in the paste’s texture, taste, and scent. Is it gritty or smooth? Minty or Fruity? If flavors are not satisfying the sensory load, then perhaps, a scentless and tasteless paste will work. Feel free to apply the same scrutiny for choosing a tooth brush as well. Some have soft bristles, others are more coarse, some people even prefer the use of electric brushes over a manual one. If you are going electric, choose one that has multiple vibration and pressure settings that can be adjusted for just the right sensation.

Auditory: Low Tolerance For Different Noise Types.

  • Human Voice and Dialogue- The most important sound to process can often be the most difficult one. Human, conversations can often start and end abruptly, creating much confusion for sensory individuals on the spectrum. Be sure to always notify and engage the sensory person of the dialogue before hand. A heads-up, will go a long way.
  • Speakers- music and commercials that are broadcasted from speakers of various sources can interfere with important conversations and thoughts, especially in a work environment.
  • Different noises – Multiple sources of noise at once often creates confusion where comprehension is affected no matter how clearly you speak. Try turning off any distractions when attempting to communicate either verbally or via written word. Even trying to read messages while someone is speaking becomes frustrating to the point of visible irritation. Be extra careful in places such as restaurants, bars, malls, concerts, theme parks, and sporting events. Needless to say, if you attend an event where many sources for noise exist, it’s always a good idea to minimize the expected sensory overload by bringing along a travel sensory kit. A carefully planned and packed sensory travel kit will minimize common filtering difficulties with overlapping voices and sounds.
  • Noise Volume -Frequently unexpected and often unwelcome, noise just simply exists. It comes in various pitches and frequencies which may irritate and ruin that rare perfect day. That is why It’s important to have a list of all your experienced noises and how they made you feel.

Doing this will help you plan your days around them or better yet, be prepared for them. For example; if you live near an airport, the noise of airplanes and helicopters flying over your home can be a major distraction throughout the day.

A great way to stay on task by avoiding them, is simply being away during peak times or by using proper noise suppression ear plugs and headphones. While it’s impossible to avoid all negative noise out of your life, managing the feelings behind the sound with sensory aids is not only effective, but with many individuals, it’s the only viable solution to an acceptable level of normalcy.

Therefore, it goes without saying, that those struggling with this type of sound filtration should communicate to their employer and possibly remove the sources of unwanted noise. But unfortunately, fear of losing one’s job, often times prevents a conversation of this type.

Tactile Sensitivity – Type of Touch and Specific Areas.

  • Unexpected Touch – While most don’t have issues with touches which result from typical public exposure in crowded areas, some still do. Therefore it’s always important to be vigilant of your surroundings. Getting on a train? Make sure you get on the less crowded car and pick a private seat without an audience. If a seat isn’t available, a nice empty area to stand in will do just fine.
  • Expected Intentional Touch – Hand on the shoulder, brushing of the arm, a “way to go” slap on the back are all touches that over time, have become international symbols of comradery. And while they have harmless intent, the sensory individual may not see it the same way. Hug-ers beware! If you end up observing a negative reaction from someone you touched unexpectedly, chances are that squirm is in relation to a sensory overload. The worst thing you can do is take it personally. Just remember, sensory issues are a spectrum, and while bumping into the same person unexpectedly might be just fine, an intentional hug out of nowhere may literally make the sensory person jump out of their skin.

Visual Sensitivity

  • Light – Fluorescent lighting can feel like needles.
  • Colors – Various shades can illicit different responses.

Olfactory Sensitivity Scents and Taste

  • Foods – Certain foods can trigger negative sensory feelings. Oftentimes, this happens with new foods with unique textures such as octopus, squid, or spices that are foreign to the sensory individual’s regular diet.

Symptoms of Sensory Hypo-sensitivity

  • High pain tolerance
  • Overly touchy
  • Fidgety
  • Enjoy swinging
  • Jumping
  • Loud noises
  • Difficulty waking up

What Employers Can Do To Accommodate Sensory Individuals. 

If you’re an employer that suspects having sensory people on your team, be sure to address these concerns in private with a reasonable plan for accommodations, especially when the team member provides value to your entire organization. Furthermore, your sensory employee might only be able to concentrate on spoken words while they’re preoccupied with something else, like doing a puzzle. This routine task might seem rude to an outside observer, but it just may be the only road to proper comprehension in the workplace.