Summer adds sweat, dirt, and bugs to the sensory overload some kids already experience outside. Manage sensory overload with these quick tips.
Summer is a time of sunshine, play, and laughter.
For people with sensory overload difficulties, though, summertime can be a minefield of stressors. Whether it’s light, sound, touch, or heat sensitivity, summer can press on all these boundaries.
Managing Summer Sensory Overload
If you or your child is dealing with stress around the summertime, it’s essential to know that you’re not alone. There are steps you can take to be prepared for whatever might come your way. Here’s our brief guide to surviving the summer months:
Prepping for the Festivities
Whether it’s the Fourth of July, Juneteenth, or just a backyard barbecue, summer is a time when people love to celebrate with each other. This can be a fantastic event that’s full of love, but it can also be stressful for those with sound and light sensitivities.
A significant stressor for anyone with a sensitivity to noise is fireworks. Have you ever seen a dog suffer through the loud noises of a distant fireworks display? If you or your child has PTSD, autism, or anxiety, you might know how this feels.
If you have a child with autism, the unpredictability of fireworks noises can be a trigger. You can try turning on your child’s favorite movies to drown out the sound and provide something more predictable to listen to.
The thing about fireworks is that they can be kind of inescapable. People with sound sensitivity often know to avoid situations that will generate sensory overload. But fireworks are so loud that you can often hear them over other sounds.
There are steps to make weathering these situations better. Talk to your child about what to expect, how to use noise-canceling headphones, and where they can safely go to avoid both the sound and light of fireworks.
Insect bites are a nuisance for anyone. But if your child has autism or another condition that heightens certain senses, the physical stress of a bug bite can be emotionally overwhelming.
Bugs invade personal space and can bite at unpredictable times. Even if the moment of the bite itself goes unnoticed, the itching and scratching can take over an otherwise calm day.
If this is the case for your child, make sure you prepare for the summer bugs with a plan for home mosquito control. There are simple and effective steps you can take to minimize bug bites from these pesky critters.
And if these precautions aren’t enough, try limiting outside playtime to times of day when the bugs are less likely to be out. For example, many species tend to come out during the twilight hours, so this may be an excellent time to bring your kids indoors.
Heat and Sensory Overload
If your child has a sensitivity to heat, summer can seem like an annual recipe for disaster. Add to that a processing disorder, and things could get out of hand very quickly.
For some kids who have trouble with the regulation of their emotions, the physical stress of overheating can quickly turn into severe emotional distress. And if your child has sensory processing disorder (SPD), they might not understand that they are overheating until it’s too late.
The best way to manage this in the short term is to be proactive. Before your child leaves the house, check to make sure their clothing is right for the weather and that they have enough fluids. If the sun is on full blast, make sure your kid can take frequent breaks from the heat.
You might also be able to notice warning signs at the moment. Here are some symptoms of overheating to watch out for:
- Altered behavior or breathing
- Nausea and dizziness
- Flushed cheeks
If your child is showing any of these signs, take a break together to cool down.
You’ve Got This!
Summer can be a trying time for anyone with sensory overload tendencies and the people who care for them. But with these strategies in hand, you’ll be able to spot warning signs more quickly and plan for what’s ahead.
For more on parenting through all of life’s unpredictable moments, check out the rest of our website!