1. I am super sensitive to noise!
My auditory system is like a super Spidey sense to me. I may have trouble tuning out all the background sounds in a noisy gym like the acoustic echo from a bouncing ball, or the shouts of other kids, or the loud HVAC system. These loud sounds can activate my flight or fight response making me want to run, kick, scream or hide. I can’t participate very well when everything is so LOUD!
- A set of noise canceling headphones is usually the best portable solution. Ear buds may also look more inclusive but are less effective.
- Strategically placed acoustic panels may also be helpful such as those found in restaurants or music halls.
2. I am super sensitive to light touch!
Light touch (like brushing away my hair or slightly bumping into me in line) also activates my flight or fight response (think about how you react when you run head on into a large spider web for example!…the natural tendency is to freak out and thrash out right?).
There are 2 types of touch in our sensory system: We are all born with protective touch which helps keep us safe (i.e. drawing your hand back from a hot surface to keep from getting burned). With normal development of sensory processing, discriminative touch becomes the more predominant touch sense. (Differentiating a nickel from a quarter in your pocket for example). Because their sensory systems are always on high alert, many kids on the autism spectrum tend to stay in protective vs. discriminative touch mode so they overreact to any touch input which again can cause the temper tantrums, aggressive or flight behaviors as their autonomic nervous system (flight or fight) activates.
- Make sure I get to be in the back of the line so I won’t have anyone behind me and I can see who is ahead of me.
- For younger students, using a rope line to and from the playground/gym can help define an allotted distance between me and other students and help keep my spatial boundaries safe.
- Deep touch pressure is calming to me and does NOT activate my light touch/flight or fight response. Deep touch pressure activates the proprioceptive sense (information from muscles and joints which give us our body awareness). This input helps release neurotransmitters for calming and help me know where my body is in space. Ways to give deep touch pressure include:
- Carrying, pushing or pulling something heavy (medicine balls, the PE activity cart, Body Sox, Tug a War, CanDo Band).
- Wearing a pressure or weighted vest
- Getting a deep pressure hug (if I ask for and/or agree to receive it).
3. I like my body spatial boundaries well defined.
This also helps keep me calm and organized.
- Gym tape or similar boundary line definition
- Bases or Spot Markers
- Hula Hoop Ring to mark where I need to stay
- Visual Cues during activities such as this Push Up Training Mat
4. I may have trouble getting through the whole class without a meltdown.
- Backward chaining can help me stay in class and learn. Bring me into the full class participation only in the last 10-15 minutes of class and help me do something successful!
- Allow me to have at least 1 break during class to go use the restroom or water fountain (these are places where I can calm down and regroup) without it seeming so obvious.
5. Visual Schedules and Timers Can Help Keep Me from Having a Meltdown.
- The TimeTimer is the perfect tool to help me understand how much time is left.
- Use actual photos or picture icons of what activity I am currently doing and what activity/step etc. is coming next.
I hope these suggestions help you help me better in your PE Class! Thank you for understanding!
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