How to regulate a child’s sensory overload

Sensory overload is a term that one is bound to come across when discussing children who have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The term ‘sensory overload’ describes the feeling of being overwhelmed by different sensory perceptions, which include auditory (hearing), visual (sight), feel (touch), and smell. While undergoing sensory overload, a child may feel frustrated with their inability to communicate what they are feeling, which is why it is important for parents and others at home to understand how to engage in sensory regulation tactics which have the ability to calm a child.

Before addressing ‘bad’ behaviour, inattention, or emotional outbursts directly, it is important to ask yourselves whether your child is sensory regulated in the moment, how you can help or facilitate their sensory regulation, and how you can get your child back to sensory safety. While this may sound like a difficult task, the reality is actually quite different- parents can implement strategies to help support sensory regulation.

Parents can create a sensory friendly environment by creating spaces to minimise sensory distractions, providing visual schedules to help with communication, and provide sensory relief toys such as fidget spinners or sensory cushions with different textures (ranging from soft to coarse, depending on which your child needs). Furthermore, providing a range of sensory activities for your child, with frequent breaks in their day to day life to allow them to engage in movement breaks can also help to tackle sensory overload. If possible, constructing a ‘calming corner’ with different toys and dim lighting can also help to calm sensory overloads. Lastly, engaging in deep pressure touch by using different massaging techniques can also help your children obtain the sensory pressure they need to feel grounded.