Finding Sensory Stimulation and Balance
“Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain-
And most fools do.” -Benjamin Franklin
The world we live in full of beautiful sights, sounds, smells, and tactile things. Imagine if your sensitivity to all these physical and sensory stimulations was magnify by 10 times? by 100 times? by 1000 times? People with Autism may in fact experience the world that way!
The thought of such a life experience is scary, overwhelming, even unbearable. And may be exactly what people with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and certain other conditions may face every day. Sensory stimulation is a constant flow of communication from the outside world to each of us. Sensory input can help us prepare for what’s coming and prevent some disastrous events; help us stay connected, be empathetic, compassionate, and make judgements about things we want or don’t, and help us form relationships. Over sensitivity, or under sensitivity to stimulation can be annoying (like the itch one can’t reach), or worse yet, dangerous (such as being unable to sense the warning signs that could save us from disaster). Sensory stimulation must have balance to be useful on personal levels.
People who have ASD frequently express a state of anxiety brought on by either too much, or too little, sensory stimulation for them at that moment. Many are unable to regulate or communicate their perceptions of sensations and are inexperienced in coping with them. At times a person can behave aggressively, running away, and engaged in other behaviors unexpectedly. Like a tensioning device with no governor that tightens till it explodes, the child with Autism has many unforeseen behaviors that interfere with functional independence in very real ways. Only fools criticize the person with ASD for their relationship to stimulations. Tools are needed to help support the expression of and managing of feelings, emotions, and sensations. Music is perfectly designed to help individuals do this.
In this segment we look at a consumer electronic device that can be useful in creating more stimulation, less stimulation, or blocking out stimulations from the environment so a person with a disability can eat, sleep, play, unwind, or be generally safer and more self-sufficient in their environment thus contributing to overall happiness of the family, the child, and the caregivers!
The loved ones of those with ASD know just how intense and destructive a behavioral “melt down” can be. Parents soon learn to monitor the individual with ASD carefully, and attempt to prevent or resolve the inevitable “melt downs” when they happen. They look for tools that assist the individual to cope, and music is one of the solutions many turn to. Research has increasingly confirmed that music helps the human brain relax, restore, regulate, balance, and heal. Music is a social and personal stimulation means used by many for entertainment, learning, and therapy.
“Sleep Phones” are new headphone devices designed to give the user comfortable, wireless, hands-free stereo music at anytime and anywhere without bulky headphones, earbuds, or wires. The Bluetooth mini-speakers are located in a soft, micro-fabric, stretch headband. The electronics can be easily removed to wash the fabric band; come in different colors and three sizes. The slim electronics are not easy to detect when laying down, sitting, standing, exercising, so you can sleep on it comfortably. They tend to reduce ambient noise around the user, even snoring. A sports-style headband is available for the very active person. The Bluetooth version charges easily with a UBC cable (included) and has good battery life, but has a very short network range so the player must be with 2-3 foot of the user to work well. SleepPhones come with pairing instructions and a free app of recommended music.
You may find the over stimulated mind responds well to the calming and grounding influences of music listening. Popular music may not offer as much of this, streaming music services may include commercials, so the best solution maybe purchasing and downloading your own selections of music that can be saved and used on multiple devices and upgraded or changed at will. Our recommendation is to choose the music the person using the device responses to most positively and consistently. Don’t change up the music too often, as a person with disabilities prefers the known and familiar especially when de-escalating. Our favorite site for music specializes in instrumental, easy-listening, harmonic and orchestral music without lyrics produced at 63-65 beats per minute (which approximates the human heart rate) and soothes the biorhythms. Our therapeutic music site; “Primitive Jam Studios” !
You can listen for free, then purchase a song or an entire “Sound Painting” for your collection. Music can be looped or randomized for long plays. Music is a good therapy tool that many turn to for relief of stress, to relax, meditate, and to assist concentrate. Background music can be a valuable sensory and self-regulation tool for the person with communication issues, stress, grief, and those on the ASD spectrum.
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