Skip to content
Home » Articles » 6 Tips to Help Sensory Sensitivities 

6 Tips to Help Sensory Sensitivities 

headphones

Sensory sensitivities can greatly impact an individual’s daily life, causing discomfort, stress, and sometimes lead to meltdowns or shutdowns. Sensory sensitivities may be experienced by individuals with conditions such as Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), or other neurodevelopmental conditions. In this article, we will explore triggers and different ways to manage sensory sensitivities to create a sensorily-friendly environment that promotes comfort and improves emotional regulation.

Sensory sensitivities can be described by heightened or diminished responses to sensory stimuli, including sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touch. While everyone experiences sensory input differently, individuals with sensory sensitivities may struggle to filter out or process sensory information effectively. This can result in something called sensory overload which can then lead to anxiety and difficulties with attention and emotional regulation.

Identifying Triggers

The first step in managing sensory sensitivities is to identify and be aware of specific triggers and patterns by noticing situations or environments that consistently lead to discomfort or sensory overload. Here are some common triggers for individuals with sensory sensitivities:

  • Loud noises or unexpected noises
  • Bright lights or flashing lights
  • Strong odours
  • Spicy or strong tasting foods
  • Foods with slimy or mushy textures
  • Touch from another person like a hug or a kiss
  • Textures from clothing or labels

6 Tips to Managing Sensory Sensitivity

By recognising these triggers, you can take proactive measures to lessen exposure and create strategies to mitigate their impact. Here are six tips to help manage these sensory sensitivities:

  1. Environment

Create a sensorily friendlier environment by changing items and furniture in the house or workplace. Here are some ideas: 

  • Reduce unnecessary noise by using noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs. Sometimes playing sounds with white noise can help drown out background noise. Consider using soundproofing materials in the room to decrease noise levels. Make sure to close windows or doors or provide wall/desk dividers to block out noise.
  • Avoid using fluorescent light bulbs which can sometimes flicker or use light dimmer switches to help control the level of brightness. Using more natural light or diffused light can reduce sensory overload. Use blackout curtains or thicker curtains if sunlight is too bright during the afternoons.
  • Ensure a comfortable temperature by preparing for hot and cold weather appropriately. Invest in hot water bottles, blankets and thicker clothes for the winter and fans and lighter garments for the summer.
  • Create safe spaces to retreat to when feeling overwhelmed. Make sure these spaces have items close by that offer comfort or sensory stimulation such as heavy blankets and stim/fidget toys.
  • Reduce visual clutter by keeping a tidy workspace and use minimal decoration if individuals feel overwhelmed by bright colours. Neutral colours and a tidy space can help create a calming environment. On the other hand, some individuals may prefer bright colours and more items in their safe spaces so this can be up to the individual.

2. What you wear

Use sensory friendly clothing and accessories. Go for more comfortable clothing and remove or cut out labels that can cause irritation. Try using bigger sizes, softer fabrics or seamless clothing. Using wide brimmed hats, caps or even tinted glasses or sunglasses to block out the bright sunlight can be helpful for individuals sensitive to light. 

3. Professional support

Consult an occupational therapist. An occupational therapist can work with you to identify triggers and provide individualised sensory diets which involve introducing activities that provide sensory input to help regulate and calm the nervous system.  They may use a technique called exposure whereby the individual is safely exposed to the challenging stimuli to help desensitise reactions to the trigger over time. 

4. Prepare to prevent

Find out beforehand if entering an area of sensorily triggering stimuli. Being able to prepare for crowded, noisy places or sunny and bright areas can be helpful for individuals so that they can bring the necessary items to help them prevent sensory overload. Use visual supports like schedules and social stories to help individuals understand what environment they will be entering, thereby alleviating any uncertainty to anxiety. 

5. Emotion regulation

Practise emotional regulation and relaxation techniques to manage sensory sensitivities. Somatic practices such as mindfulness, medication, exercise and yoga can provide relaxation and improve emotional regulation, reducing the feeling of overwhelm when faced with sensory challenges. 

6. Communicate your needs

Express your sensory differences so your needs can be understood and met. This teaches open communication and self-advocacy, and in-turn will reduce sensory overload. Reasonable adjustments at work and school settings can then be sought in order for the workplace or education provider can see the best version of the person.

Managing sensory sensitivities is essential to ensure comfort and well-being in various environments. By identifying triggers and creating sensorily friendly environments individuals with sensory sensitivities can engage in daily activities with greater ease and less stress. By embracing neurodiversity and creating inclusive environments, we can develop a more accepting and supportive society for everyone.

A person walking a dog on a trail
Description automatically generated

NeuroDirect
Author: NeuroDirect