I Discovered the Need for Sensory Overload Accommodations Recently

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In the past, I didn’t get much accommodations for sensory overload. I didn’t know that I needed it.

It was difficult drawing a connection between noise levels and a loss of productivity especially when I was used to the noise without enough recovery time. I tend to think that there’s other causes. Noise sources during college include vehicle cabins and traffic while commuting, wind, cafeterias, hallways, computers, ring tones, other equipment, air vents, and classrooms.

I didn’t think of hearing protection because no one told me that I needed it. I thought that hearing protection was needed only if the noise cause pain or risks hearing loss. If I  had sensitivities to noise, I

Interestingly, I don’t remember seeing people in special ed programs wearing hearing protection regularly in cafeterias. What I did notice was that most or all of the people in a group of autistic employees wore them for desk jobs. Other than people talking, the work place didn’t sound very noisy. I didn’t pay attention to the noise sources because I didn’t know much about my sensory needs yet.

If there were symptoms of sensory overload, they were likely overlooked. For example, if I acted like I’m daydreaming, it’s unlikely that very quiet work places are suggested. I might ask my classmates to clarify missed spoken instructions or team members might end up doing too much of my work.

I started experimenting with hearing protection after doing my own research and monitoring my symptoms. I seem to need it. So far, the main problem is sore ears and face. I often loosened or removed the ear plugs to give them a rest.

I’m considering custom fitted ear plugs since I wear hearing protection all day. The’re reusable and even recommended for sleeping! Some dB blockers have a mean dB reduction of around 34 dB at 125 Hz. Some of them are discreet, have audio jack, have Bluetooth, and are easier to remove. They’re more expensive than reusable ones you get at hardware stores but I don’t mind it if they enable us to work.

Even with hearing protection, I might still need a quieter work space. They only reduce the volume.

For safety, it’s important to have enough hearing. It’s also important not to be exposed to too much noise because it can decrease the ability to concentrate.

I’m now considering sensory overload accommodations in the future. For people with autism, I recommend not ignoring their symptoms even it they seem subtle.

 

Examples of Sound Sources that may Increase Sensory Overload

To prevent sensory overload, its triggers should be removed.

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Here are some examples of noise sources that can cause sensory overload. Some of them may be easier to overlook than others or masked by white noise.

  • Air conditioners
  • Cafeterias
  • Clothing dryers
  • Computers
  • Concerts
  • Construction
  • Conversations
  • Crowds
  • Dishwashers
  • Echoes
  • Fans
  • Fluorescent lamps
  • Fume hoods
  • Furnaces
  • Gas tanks
  • Hair dryers
  • Lawnmowers
  • Leaf blowers
  • Microwave ovens
  • Photocopiers
  • Power tools
  • Radios
  • Refrigerators
  • Restaurants
  • Ring tones
  • Shops
  • Traffic
  • Transformers
  • TV’s
  • Vehicle cabins
  • Vents
  • Washing machines
  • Water heaters
  • Water sources
  • Wind

You can experiment with hearing protection near those sources. Look for improvements. Make sure that it’s safe to wear hearing protection.

Can Sensory Overload Affect Traffic Safety?

When I get sensory overload, I feel the need to be more cautious in traffic.

In Downtown Vancouver, I had a close call last year. Shortly after work, I was making a left turn from Beatty St onto a bike lane on Smithe St and a car going straight had to swerve and I braked when I noticed it at the last moment. Thankfully, the light just turned green at that time since slower traffic meant there was more time to react.left turn.png

It’s possible that the road markings were confusing at that time. I was in the green left turn lane turning into a bike lane on the left side of the road. It was my first time left turning in that intersection. Beatty St now has a protected bike lane.

I most likely had sensory overload or a partial shutdown at that time. I only started wearing hearing protection for suspected triggers this year.

It not only affects cycling but also driving and crossing streets when there’s sensory overload.

I recommend taking quieter streets if possible, being extra cautious when you think you have sensory overload, avoiding left turns on busy streets if possible, using bike lanes instead of busy traffic, avoiding the triggers, and studying the route ahead of time to improve safety.

You might be able to predict shutdowns with noise levels, exhaustion, and a change of route or routine.

You can try hearing protection at work or school to reduce sensory overload. You might be able to find products that can effectivly block wind noise. You can try making them.

Do you or someone you know find traffic safety affected by sensory load? Do you have any advice? If so, please share your comments below.

The Need for Employment Services in an Autistic Person

Employment tends to be a challenge in autistic people that at least 80% of autistic adults are unemployed. That’s why I think they need employment services.

Job interviews and keeping the job are often hard for them which is why I think they need employment services.

I feel that some networking is needed for me to pass job interviews.

Keeping jobs may be difficult too. I need clear instructions, a quiet work area, and clear performance feedback to be able to perform well. I’m still experimenting with earmuffs and ear plugs to improve concentration even if the noise doesn’t sound too loud.

I would recommend that autistic people get the workplace accommodations that they need once they’re hired.

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I learned that there are employment agencies that are trained to help disabled people find jobs. Thankfully, I’ve been getting help from one. They not only help their clients find jobs that are suitable for them but also help them to be successful in their jobs once hired.

Since autistic adults tend to have a hard time getting and keeping jobs, I think employment services are important for them.

List of Ways that an Autistic Person “Passes”

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I’ve been told that I don’t look autistic.

These are the possible ways that I “pass”:

Difficulties with Style of Clothing in an Autistic Person

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I often find it difficult to determine the right clothing for the right occasion when there’s no clear guidelines.

I have a hard time deciding what to wear based on:

  • How worn the clothing can be.
  • How faded the clothing can be.
  • How wrinkled the clothing can be.
  • How strictly the dress code should be followed.
  • What style the clothing should be.

Clothes gradually fade and wear over time. It can be expensive and wasteful to buy new clothes every time you notice them fade or wear. I find it hard to draw the line when it’s too faded or worn and whether repairs should be made.

Some people may not follow the dress code perfectly. You might see people wearing jeans when the dress code is business casual, and not seem to have problems which can be confusing.

Other features that I have difficulties with include colour, fitting, type of clothing, how high dress shirts should be buttoned, and what combinations are allowed? I was told that dress shirts shouldn’t always be buttoned all the way up, and checked shirts shouldn’t be worn with checked pants.

Without being given the answer, I might not even notice that you’re wearing clothing that’s too formal or too casual.

To decide what to wear, I often need to ask for help, rely on clear guidelines, or rely on memorization. I also know that it’s ok to wear noticeably stained clothing if you know that they’re going to be stained anyways, and that clothing is a form of social cue.

I think a chart of what to wear based on specific situations would be helpful.

Autistic People Should be Allowed Accommodations

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Recently, there was an article from www.thinkingautismguide.com saying how fidget toys are becoming acceptable because of non-autistic people using them. This made me agree that autistic people should be allowed to have other accommodations as well.

One of the accommodations that I feel that I need is wearing hearing protection to prevent sensory overload. Some people think they shouldn’t be worn because it’s extreme or it’s awkward.

It’s true that there are concerns about looking different but I think not being able to function well can be more serious.

I rather not wait for symptoms to occur because that would be too late. Productivity may be lost and it requires time for recovery. Often, you hear the saying time is money.

From a company with high functioning autistic people, many of them need accommodations such as headphones. They’re also successful.

If I see that another autistic person needs accommodations, I’ll assume that I may need them too or at least I should experiment.

With autism, there’s different sensory needs, difficulties reading social cues, and difficulties expressing emotions. They may need to be allowed to stim, job coaches, to avoid tasks that require socializing, fidget toys, sensory friendly environments, clear communication, help with making friends and socializing, help with interpreting social cues even those obvious to non-autistic people, and other accommodations.

Compared to certain disabilities, autism can be subtle but that doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t there, it’s too mild to need accommodations, or the person doesn’t want to socialize. That’s why I think more autism awareness is needed. Like many disabilities, it needs accommodations.

An autistic YouTuber mentioned about not having work because of sensory needs. I don’t know how much accommodation the person received or if accommodations would have enabled the person to work. What I believe is that we shouldn’t have to miss opportunities just because we didn’t have accommodations due to unawareness of our disabilities.

I hope that other forms of accommodations would become acceptable.