autism · autism sensory bag · journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · sensory bag · Uncategorized

Savannah’s Sensory Bag

After a few close together meltdowns these past few weeks, I’ve realised that perhaps the majority of people around me do not know how to handle this situation. If you’ve read this and still feel confused, I’ll explain a meltdown.

It’s basically getting overloaded with too much information and the only way I can cope with this or to regulate my emotions is to completely shut down and stim (repetitive behaviours such as rocking, verbal sounds, hand flapping etc). In these meltdowns I pretty much turn into a toddler – mostly non-verbal, no eye contact, no compliance with direction and self-destructive behaviours.

Signs of a sensory overload or meltdown include:

  • Irritability
  • “Shuts down”, or refuses to participate in activities and/or interact with others
  • Avoids being touched or reaches out for touch
  • Gets agitated or upset
  • Covers eyes around bright lights
  • Makes poor eye contact
  • Covers ears to close out sounds or voices
  • Complains about noises that do not affect others
  • Has difficulty focusing
  • Over-sensitivity to touch, movement, sights, and/or sounds
  • Has trouble with social interactions
  • Extremely high or extremely low activity levels
  • Muscle tension
  • Stimming – repetitive behaviours such as rocking, hand flapping and skin picking
  • Fidgeting and restlessness
  • Panic attacks
  • Angry outbursts
  • Sleeplessness/fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating

So now you know what my meltdowns are, you’re probably still a little uncertain on what you have to do. This is why I’ve created a sensory bag that contains everything that will keep me calm and help shorten the meltdown. See below for some useful tips.

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  1. Do not stop any stimming behaviours – they help me regulate my emotions. Only intervene when I could possibly cause danger to myself. If I am rocking too close to a wall, move me instead of stopping me rock, for example.
  2. Understand that there may not be a reason for my meltdown. If I cannot give an explanation, be at peace with that.
  3. Sit close to me or even hold me unless I resist this (depends on my mood). Deep pressure against the skin combined with individual input often calms the nervous system in places such as the legs or the hands. Constantly reassuring and pressure to these parts of the body allows me to know you’re there whilst keeping me with reality.
  4. Whenever possible – go for my sensory bag! If its not on me, it will be in my room. These items will calm me. There will be communication cards in here that will help me communicate with you when I become non-verbal.
  5. Talk everything Gruffalo. I am utterly obsessed and in a meltdown the Gruffalo becomes an anchor. Find the story on youtube and play it for me –  Find it here. My sensory bag contains the books – let me read them. If you don’t have the books, encourage me to say them (I know them off by heart).
  6. Let me walk, run or spin. Follow me as I tend to wander. This lets me release my energy.
  7. I may have panic attacks during meltdowns. Watch out for fast breathing.
  8. Know the meltdown will pass and I’ll return to normal 🙂
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Gruffalo books, thinking putty, ear defenders, sensory bottle, chewys, tangles, fidget toy, communication cards (unpictured), blanket (unpictured) and gruffalo teddy  (unpictured).
autism · journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

Massive Sensory Overload

Today’s just one of those days. Way too anxious, way too tired. Sensory overload came over me this morning in full swing. Even the power of headphones did not stop all the different senses getting too much. I’m putting it down to lack of sleep, alcohol and medication.

I was supposed to go shopping. I was supposed to buy food for the week ahead, buy some envelopes and post a letter. I forgot to get off my stop on the bus not once but three times…so I decided to get off in town. I forgot completely about what I needed to do. I made it to tesco (a 5 minute walk that consisted of too many voices, too many cars, too many tapping feet on the pavement, construction guys throwing tools around and my own breathing) but my shopping list consisted of just mushrooms because I forgot all that I needed. I wandered around the shop for a bit before realising I had to pay. I then caught the bus back…

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The entire time I couldn’t breathe. The minute I left my flat this morning I felt like a boa constrictor was perched on my throat. My chest was so weak and hollow, my breaths were fast. All I could focus on was every single noise, every single image and person. Everything but my mind. It was like walking through a dream. I completely forgot the reason why I was going out in the first place. However, I made it to a to b and eventually back to a…but my goodness. What a morning.

Sensory overloads are horrendous. Sensory overloads or meltdowns occur when one or more of the body’s senses experiences over-stimulation from the environment. Examples include; crowded places, noise, people, too much information, visual overload.


Oversensitive Sensitivities

Sound

  •  Noise can be magnified and sounds become distorted and muddled.
  • May be able to hear conversations in the distance.
  • Inability to cut out sounds – notably background noise, leading to difficulties concentrating.

Touch

  • Touch can be painful and uncomfortable – people may not like to be touched and this can affect their relationships with others.
  • Dislikes having anything on hands or feet.

Sight

  • Distorted vision – objects and bright lights can appear to jump around.
  • Images may fragment.
  • Easier and more pleasurable to focus on a detail rather than the whole object.

Helping someone in Sensory Overload

If someone is having a meltdown, or not responding, don’t judge them. There are things that you can do to help. This can make a world of difference.

Often, small changes to the environment can make a difference. Creating a sensory profile may help you to work out what changes are needed. Three points to remember are:

  • be aware. Look at the environment to see if it is creating difficulties. Can you change anything?. Watch the person closely – changes in behaviour or indicators of distress may be small. Watch breathing patterns, especially.
  • be creative. Think of some positive sensory experiences.
  • be prepared. Tell the person about possible sensory stimuli they may experience in different environments.
  • be calm. People in sensory overload are feeling very distressed and anxious so staying calm may help them relax. Offer comfort if the person wants it (touch or words) and move away from the area that is causing distress. Be patient and wait for the sensory overload to finish.
autism · journey to recovery · mental health · mental health blogger · mental illness · personal journey · Uncategorized

Sensory Overload

Sometimes, things get a bit too much. Noises are everywhere. A pencil moving. A person breathing. A stereo. Then there’s lights; flashing lights, coloured lights, a quick flash, a constant light. There’s textures, tastes, smells, sights and sounds consistently – all of the time. All of these merge together and create a jumbled blurred mess of colours and sounds. This is sensory overload…

A sensory overload occurs when one or more of the body’s senses experiences over-stimulation from the environment. I am over sensitive to sounds, sights and tastes. I can’t hear you very well when you’re talking next to me, but if you’re on the other side of the room its not a problem. I can hear a door close on the other side of the house. I can hear someone sigh a mile away or turn a page in their book. Lights and objects jump around; and little details stand out more than the whole object or situation.  In terms of touch, I am under sensitive. I have a high tolerance to pain, and I need deep pressure from others when I feel completely overwhelmed.

Imagine a sensory overload. A complete rush of sounds, sights, smells, textures and tastes. A complete blur of people, noises, the environment, cars, the street, even your own mind.

A noise in your head that rumbles and screeches. People, lots of people. Heat. Too much touch. No time to think. Too many flashing lights and sign posts. Too much visible information. Too much sound. People talking. People typing on laptops. A page of a book. A pencil hitting the floor. People laughing. Music. Not enough touch. Trapped. Cold. Heavy breathing. Sweating. Tired….a sensory overload.

how-to-deal-with-stress


How do you spot a sensory overload?

Signs of a sensory overload or meltdown include:

  • Irritability
  • “Shuts down”, or refuses to participate in activities and/or interact with others
  • Avoids being touched or reaches out for touch
  • Gets agitated or upset
  • Covers eyes around bright lights
  • Makes poor eye contact
  • Covers ears to close out sounds or voices
  • Complains about noises that do not affect others
  • Has difficulty focusing
  • Over-sensitivity to touch, movement, sights, and/or sounds
  • Has trouble with social interactions
  • Extremely high or extremely low activity levels
  • Muscle tension
  • Stimming – repetitive behaviours such as rocking, hand flapping and skin picking
  • Fidgeting and restlessness
  • Panic attacks
  • Angry outbursts
  • Sleeplessness/fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating

Helping somebody with sensory overload

The quickest way to calm somebody down during a sensory overload is to remove that person from the environment in which the overload occurred.

If other symptoms alongside a sensory overload occur, work on these also. Panic attacks include heavy breathing, disorientation, low body temperature and severe panic. Once a person recovers from this, their senses may calm down also. Anger should be dealt with alongside an overload if it occurs.

Deep pressure against the skin combined with individual input often calms the nervous system in places such as the legs or the hands. Constantly reassuring and pressure to the person’s body allows them to know you’re there whilst keeping them with reality.

Reducing sensory input such as eliminating distressing sounds and lowering the lights can help. Calming, focusing music works for some.

Talking or repeating the person’s name may help them establish their surroundings, the people they are with and what they are currently going through. This may encourage the person to calm themselves down, or reaching out to somebody to help.

Stimming or self-soothing behaviours should not be stopped unless they pose risk to the person suffering the sensory overload. These behaviours often allow the person to calm down and come out of an overload.

If a quick break or intervention does not relieve the problem, an extended rest is advised. It is important in situations of sensory overload to calm oneself and return to a normal level.

Sensory Overload Virtual Reality Video