Meeting Sensory Needs On-the-Go

Life is full of variety. Through it all, sensory needs are often a constant for neurodivergent people. Being prepared to meet a variety of sensory needs in a variety of settings can increase opportunities to engage in enjoyable activities while preserving energy to actually enjoy the activities!


Auditory stimuli are a constant presence for many people in many situations. Having some control over these stimuli is often important for self-regulation. There are a variety of headphones in many shapes, sizes, colors, and types that can be used to manage sensory needs. Noise canceling headphones and noise blocking headphones are two commercial options that can serve in this capacity. Some people use one type of headphones for every environment, while others prefer to differentiate by environment Active noise canceling headphones use electricity to cancel out background noise while maintaining the integrity of the sounds you’re supposed to hear, such the other person’s speech during a conversation. Meanwhile, noise-blocking headphones (like the kind that are often used in shooting ranges and other loud environments) simply reduce the intensity of all sounds from meeting the eardrum. These can mitigate the impact of very loud stimuli (such as concerts, fireworks, or every large clouds) are convenient in that they do not need a power source. However, their lack of selectivity could cause them to block quieter sounds that a person may want to hear, such as a conversation partner’s speech.


Visual stimuli can also cause strife. Cluttered or bright environments may feel like an onslaught of input. Sunglasses are a well-known tool for dealing with brightness, and their utility and portability can carry over beyond sunlight! Glasses with colored and otherwise tinted lenses, such as Irlen lenses, can also be useful indoors for filtering specific frequencies of light. Irlen lenses even come in contact lens form!


Finally, a variety of tools can be used to support overall sensory integration. Fidgets are becoming an increasingly-popular way to manage sensory and movement needs. Fidget spinners, fidget cubes, tangles, putty, and spiky objects are some potential tools. Compression items such as body socks and compression vests can also aid in sensory integration. Weighted items such as lap pads, weighted blankets, and weighted vests serve a similar function, though their weight could make them inconvenient to transport. As these products have become increasingly available in chain stores, they have become accessible to many who may otherwise not have been able to afford them! Additionally, for those who can afford a handmade blanket, purchasing weighted objects is an opportunity to support one of many disabled people who make and sell them.


These options and more provide opportunities to enjoy experiences while meeting sensory needs! What are some of your favorites?