Tigger Pritchard delivered a great workshop with The PDA Space where they discussed 'The Sensory Impact of School Holidays', which is available to watch here in The PDA Space Portal. I have also created a FREE E-BOOK 'Building a Family Toolkit' which is available here. Sensory Systems Everyone has a sensory system; autistic and otherwise neurodivergent people may find some of their senses are more or less sensitive and different from other people's. Autistic needs are fluid, as is the sensory system; what is tolerated one day may not be tolerated the next.
More sensitive = hyper-sensitivity
Less sensitive = hypo-sensitivity
Hypersensitivity: a more intense / heightened response to sensory stimuli, to the point it could feel very uncomfortable or even painful (e.g., light/sound/taste/touch/smell/movement/pain).
Hyposensitivity: a lower response to sensory stimuli, may be unaware of pain or not as responsive as you may expect (e.g., light/sound/taste/touch/smell/movement/pain).
Having a highly responsive, perceptive sensory system can be wonderful as it enables you to experience the world intensesly but can also be exhausting and difficult to manage. Holidays can bring more challenges for neurodivergent people as lots of things change, which can raise anxiety and cause more sensory dysregulation. Changes may include:
Types of Food
Routines of the day
Going to different places and being with different people
Autistic people can be a lot more or less sensitive to certain things. Holidays can create uncertainty as your usual dependable routines and ways of living suddenly change. There are eight primary senses, but recent research shows there may be up to 33 different senses! 1. Sight 2. Hearing 3. Smell 4. Touch 5. Taste 6. Proprioception (body awareness) 7. Vestibular (movement and balance) 8. Interoception (internal body sense, e.g. feeling hot /cold/hungry /pain or need the toilet)
Uncertainty can increase anxiety.
It can help recreate the sensory elements and the things that help you, your child or young person in their usual routines to provide consistency during the holidays.
Try to be a Sensory Detective and consider what sensory input you, your child or your young person may be struggling with. Also, think about when you or your child is most happy and regulated. What sensory brings joy, what calms or stimulates, and what works well to help regulate the senses? Thinking about these questions will help you create a family sensory toolkit.
You can use the following page as a template to stick on your fridge or type into the notes on your phone to help you work out your child's areas of difficulty and what may help them regulate their sensory system. This will help you build up your sensory toolkit.
Why not try this for the whole family? We all have sensory needs, and it may be a nice way to model and for everyone to work together and open up conversations about their own sensory responses.
Learn more about building your family sensory toolkit by downloading your free e-book below.