The Sensory Integration Toolbox: 16 Simple Tips for Sight, Sound & Scent Sensitivity

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This article is part of the third installment in the "Sensory Integration and Autism" series. Take the quick sensory screening to see if you or someone you care about is sensitive to sight sound or touch and read specific tips you can follow to address sensory challenges.

If you are curious about what "sensory integration disorder" is then click here for part 1 of this series. If you have ever wondered what it must be like for someone on the autism spectrum to experience hyper/hypo-sensitivity, click here to read their stories in part 2. For general tips and suggestions to support someone struggling with sensory integration click here for life changing steps you can take to make a difference in someone's life.

Old fashioned incandescent lights are often preferred to florescent bulbs.
Old fashioned incandescent lights are often preferred to florescent bulbs. | Source
  • Click on each of the sensory questionnaires (sight, sound and smell) below and see how sensory integration disorder affects you or someone you care about. Each quiz may take a few minutes to complete.
  • Be sure to answer the questions about the person you think might have sensory integration disorder.
  • Scores can range from 0% to 100%. The closer to 100%, the greater the sensory challenges in each particular area and the greater the likelihood that this person will benefit from help with hyper and/or hyposensitivity.

Visual (Sight) Sensitivity Questionnaire

Sight Tips and Supports

  1. Eliminating fluorescent or other adverse lighting whenever possible. Some of us are so sensitive we may see particles in certain types of lighting or some lights may give us a headache. Use incandescent bulbs or natural light when possible.
  2. Eliminate too much clutter on walls, ceilings and décor. Just as “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure” one person’s visual feast can be another person’s visual nightmare. In other words, ask for feedback on what decoration and ornamentation are comfortable instead of assuming what is acceptable based on your own perception.
  3. Allow hats or sunglasses when lighting cannot be adjusted, even in doors.
  4. Some shades of paper may make it difficult for a person to read text printed on them. Experiment with different shades of inexpensive sunglasses and/or colors of paper to address this problem.
  5. Do not force eye contact if it diminishes communication or it is too uncomfortable. Instead, allow the person with sensory issues to find an alternative such as looking between your eyes, at your mouth or neck.
  6. Do not force or expect a person who is overwhelmed by visual stimuli to go into crowded settings or environments that are visually overwhelming. As an alternative, meet in a visually quiet setting or choose an off peak time so that crowds of people do not add to the visual overload.
  7. When someone is particular about how their things are placed or organized, do not touch or move them without permission first.
  8. Wear simple, neutral colored clothing (instead of stripes, flower prints and polka-dots) if you are an autism professional to decrease the likelihood that your clothing will be a distraction.

Sound Sensitivity Questionnaire

Sound Tips and Tools

  1. White noise machines are available on-line and help drown out other irritating or distracting noises by producing soothing sounds such as ocean waves, rain, washing machines, vacuum cleaners and dishwashers. Many individuals report that they find a particular sound to be beneficial while other white noise sounds may have no effect or even be irritating.
  2. Allow the use of headphones and music or earplugs to cover up irritating or distracting noises. This should be considered as an accommodation rather than a form of entertainment in the classroom. For example, wearing headphones in a cafeteria, gymnasium or hallway may make these experiences more tolerable. These accommodations can be written into students' Individual Educational Plans (IEP's) or other academic plans when exceptions to school rules need to be made.
  3. Keep the volume of stereos and televisions as low as possible or wear headphones in the presence of anyone who is hypersensitive to sound.
  4. Choose to participate in activities where people gather such as shopping or dining out during “off hours” instead of peak times to avoid dealing with too many people at once. For example, eat out at a restaurant between 11and 12 or after 1pm to avoid crowds.

Create an autism friendly environment by avoiding perfume and choosing scent free detergent, shampoo, lotion, hair gels and other products.
Create an autism friendly environment by avoiding perfume and choosing scent free detergent, shampoo, lotion, hair gels and other products. | Source

Scent Sensitivity Questionnaire

Scent Tips and Tools

  1. Create and encourage scent-free environments whenever possible. If shampoos, perfumes, lotions, detergents or deodorants cause nausea or headaches, use unscented products when in the presence of those who are hypersensitive to smell.
  2. Professionals working with individuals on the spectrum should not wear perfume or scented lotions or other body products to work and should not burn candles or have potpourri in their offices if this space is open to the public.
  3. Avoid taking routes that have known scent “pollution” such as perfume counters and food courts at the mall and be willing to scope out public areas in advance on behalf of the sensitive person to avoid sitting or standing next to someone who is heavily scented.
  4. Air filters to deodorize can be beneficial. These range from the small affordable plug in units that fit into a room to full ventilation system filters.

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