Looking for ways to be more inclusive but need help figuring out where to start? Are you a caretaker who wants to help your family and friends become more ASD-aware this Autism Appreciation Month? Look no further!
First and foremost, what is ASD?
ASD is a complex neurodivergence, and the ways it manifests are unique to each individual. It’s important to note that these tips are aggregated from the broader ASD community as general guidelines or things to keep in mind. Asking the individual or the caretaker about specific needs, when possible, is always best.
Make a sensory-safe space.
Have a designated space available with soothing sounds, colors, sights, and textures that allow anyone feeling overwhelmed to take a moment away from any unpleasant or distracting micro sensations.
Distractions can be a source of stress for many on the Spectrum, so remember that anything out of place or unorganized could be unsettling.
When possible, use a carpet to reduce floor reflections caused by hard surfaces and curtains for direct sunlight that could cause a glare, an often uncomfortable micro sensation for those with ASD.
Create a “pacing path.”
Many folks, both on the spectrum and not, pace to self-ease or burn off excess energy. This is why keeping a marked or unmarked path around the house or outside is helpful in managing space in the environment as well as providing a designated area to pace.
Keep fidget toys and comfort items easily accessible.
Put together baskets with a few extra snuggly blankets and some fidget items around your space. You can tell your guests or add a simple sign on the container letting them know the items are for anyone to use.
Strong perfume, candles, and even hand soap can be sensory triggers. It’s easy to forget if you enjoy the smells, but skip the Glade Plug-ins if possible - those with ASD in your life will thank you.
Make loud noises.
Noise can be louder and more intense for those on the Spectrum. Try to speak quietly, and don’t make loud or abrupt noises.
Use bright, fluorescent, or strobing lighting.
A dimmer is recommended for those on the Spectrum, so you can easily adjust lighting based on time of day, mood, and other factors. However, if you don’t have one, don’t worry - do your best to keep the lights low and replace bulbs with a lower wattage.
Decorate with bright patterns or colors.
Monotone colors in a muted palette are most suggested for those on the spectrum. That’s not to say everyone on the spectrum won’t like patterns or bright colors, though, so it’s best to ask for preference if the individual is verbal. If not, air on the side of neutrals for their calming effect.
Be afraid to ask what you can do to make the sensory experience better for the individual!
Communication is key, and keeping an open line is the only way we get more inclusive and understanding as a society. Most individuals or caretakers of those with ASD are willing to answer your questions about how to be more sensory-friendly for their individual needs, which is always the ideal route. Many would gladly welcome it.
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