24 informonline.org.au Your health Sensory overload 101 Anyone can experience sensory overload, but some conditions can make sensory overload debilitating. Conditions such as sensory processing disorder, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, post-traumatic stress disorder and Autism spectrum disorder all exacerbate the experience of sensory overload, and can make access to safe spaces and sensory friendly environments a necessity for participating fully in everyday life.
Your health informonline.org.au 25 Everyday environments where sensory overload is more likely to occur include shopping centres, cinemas, festivals, public transport, noisy cafes and even busy roads. Some sectors are becoming more aware of sensory overload, and are starting to create safe spaces to become more inclusive for people with differing sensory needs. The below list is by no means exhaustive – these are just some examples of businesses doing good work with safe spaces for sensory overload. You can look online for programs running in your local area, and if you can’t find any why not take the first step and make a proposal for a program you’d like to see run near you? Shopping With their harsh lighting, banging trolleys and beeping machines, supermarkets can be a big ask for someone who suffers from sensory overload. Coles Supermarkets has partnered with Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect) to run a sensory overload friendly ‘Quiet Hour’ every Tuesday from 10.30–11.30am across a number of its stores nationally. During Quiet Hour the lighting is dimmed, and noise is reduced by ensuring that shelf-restocking carts are removed from the shop floor, and beeps on checkout machines are turned off. You can find a participating store by visiting the Coles website. The Good Guys is running a similar initiative, and the concept is beginning to catch on with other retailers. Some shopping centres, for example the Northland Shopping Centre in Melbourne, are creating sensory safe spaces for shoppers who need some down time. These are quiet rooms with gentle lighting and soft fittings to give shoppers or their children some time out to reset and relax before continuing with their shopping. These quiet rooms with gentle lighting and soft fittings are designed to give shoppers or their children some time out to reset and relax Driving Drive Smart Driving School in Adelaide has partnered with Autism SA to train staff to run programs specifically for teaching learner drivers with Autism Spectrum Disorder, to help them to become safe, independent drivers. Hairdressers There are a number of hairdressers who specialise in giving haircuts to children and adults who find the experience of getting a haircut overwhelming. Giggle and Scissors are a mobile Brisbane based company. Shear Abilities salon in Maitland offers a friendly and inclusive space. Cinemas Some cinemas run sensory-friendly sessions, which include dimmed lighting and lowered volume, and no judgement for getting up and moving around during the film. Event Cinemas and Village Cinemas both run sensory-friendly sessions, so check out their websites to find a session near you. Sensory overload can be debilitating, but initiatives like those mentioned can help to make everyday activities bearable, and for some, possible for the first time. It is always worth encouraging your local businesses and councils to look at the success of these programs in other areas and to consider doing something similar, so we can all enjoy being out in the world.