Thursday, March 1, 2012

Sensory Solutions Part 2- Visual

In this entry I will cover visual processing issues that those with Sensory Processing Disorder might face and some solutions to those problems. 

 Most autistics are hypersensitive to visual input.  Too much color and clutter can result in overstimulation.  When this happens to me personally, I feel dizzy and disoriented.  I can't focus on anything.  My brain can't process individual objects in an overstimulated state.  If you were to ask me to find a specific object it would be difficult.

To help prevent visual overstimulation:
*Use subtle shades of color to paint, particularly in rooms like bedrooms, and classrooms.  I particularly like bold colors, but I like it to be 'clean' colors with no interference of clutter on the walls or lots of other things to compete in the environment.  Of course, this is just my own opinion.

*Limit things hung on the walls.  Don't hang up wall to wall posters in a classroom for kids with ASD.  Limit pictures, and shelves.

* Avoid excess clutter.  This includes nick-nacs and other decorations.  I like things to be well organized, labeled and hidden if possible.  Having shelves with doors is a good example of hiding clutter. 

* Incandescent lights are a must for some on the spectrum.  The flicker of florescent can be too much.

*Strong sunglasses is also a must for some on the spectrum.  My older son's eye doctor said that his eyes are physically unable to handle sunlight the same as others. He requires glasses, so the doctor recommended prescription sunglasses for times when he is outdoors for any length in time.   This is also something my husband requires.  Unless it is dark outside he absolutely has to have sunglasses on. Even inside of stores, or cloudy days.

*Hats can also be of some help to minimize light and overstimulation in environments where there is a lot of movement.

*Minimize movement.  I personally get very overstimulated if there is a lot of movement going on around me. My kids running back and forth in a room, or lots of people around me at a busy store is just too much.  Realize that this takes it's toll on Spectrumites and take into consideration that environments with lots of moving people will need to be limited in duration if you don't want a sensory induced meldtdown.

* Provide sectioned areas for school children if they need it.  As a child I love, love, loved the little partitions we made during state assessments for our desks.  They were just pieces of white card stock folded into sections so that it stood up on your desk like a cubicle.  They were designed to keep your eyes to yourself during testing times, but they were delightful in keeping my area simple and pleasant visually.

*If sensory overstimulation is suspected, have a quiet dark area for the person to relax.  For an adult this may be their room, or any area free of others.  For a child, a little pop tent with blankets is a good example of a good destressing area. Something to block out light and a busy environment is necessary for visual overstimulation.  My son often prefers just hiding under a blanket with his DS. 

Strategies to help Understimulation:

Sometimes, a person on the spectrum may be hypo-sensitive to sights.  I have often noticed that the more profoundly autistic people are the ones that have hypo-sensitive sensory systems, but this can vary from individual to individual, as well as be different on different days for the same person!

When someone needs more visual stimuli they may seek out lots of colorful toys, and wall hangings, ect...  They may wave their hands and fingers in front of their face. Finger flicking in front of the eyes is very common.  My son will seek out quick moving cartoons, like Spongebob.

Ways to help might include:

* Toys that light up.

  *Colorful environments, walls, blankets, posters, lots of colorful toys
and picture books

* Bright quick paced computer games and cartoons

*puzzles, Where's Waldo type of books, and memory games

It is also important to make sure to get regular check ups at the eye doctor.  Many kids with developmental disabilities are far sighted, meaning they can't see up close as well.  This will also contribute to the visual stims that many will do.  The eye doctor can check this even in nonverbal children using lenses and light from a small hand-held instrument, our optometrists can see how a child’s eyes respond to particular targets and test for nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism.  You can sometimes see that a baby, or child is farsighted due to one eye that 'pulls in' when they try to focus.  This is myopia, or lazy eye.  My youngest son is myopic.  This is also something to rule out when a child will not sit still or appear to attend when doing work that requires close up focus, like learning letters, numbers, and later reading and math.