How to Create a Sensory-Friendly New Year for Your Neurodiverse Child
J Julia DeNey

How to Create a Sensory-Friendly New Year for Your Neurodiverse Child

Dec 22, 2023

The New Year is a time of celebration and reflection for many people, but for individuals with sensory sensitivities, it can be overwhelming. Loud noises, bright lights, and crowded spaces can cause anxiety and discomfort. However, by making a few adjustments, it is possible to create a sensory-friendly New Year that allows everyone to enjoy the festivities without feeling overwhelmed. In this article, we will discuss some tips and strategies for creating a sensory-friendly New Year.

Understanding Sensory Sensitivities

Before we dive into the strategies, it's important to have a basic understanding of sensory sensitivities. Sensory sensitivities are common in individuals with autism, ADHD, sensory processing disorder, and other related conditions. These individuals may have heightened or diminished sensitivity to certain sensory stimuli, such as noise, light, touch, taste, or smell. It's crucial to be aware of these sensitivities and make accommodations accordingly.

Minimizing Noise

One of the most common triggers for individuals with sensory sensitivities is loud noise. New Year's celebrations often involve fireworks, parties, and loud music, which can be overwhelming. To create a sensory-friendly New Year, consider the following:

1. Opt for quiet celebrations

Instead of attending large parties or crowded events, consider hosting a small gathering at home with close friends and family. This allows you to control the noise level and create a more comfortable environment.

2. Use noise-cancelling headphones

If you do attend a noisy event, consider providing noise-cancelling headphones for individuals who may need them. These headphones can help reduce the impact of loud noises and create a more soothing experience.

3. Prepare for fireworks

If fireworks are a part of your New Year's celebration, inform individuals in advance and make sure they are aware of the noise level. Providing earplugs or a quiet space where they can retreat can help minimize the impact of the loud noises.

Managing Visual Stimuli

Bright lights and flashy decorations can also be overwhelming for individuals with sensory sensitivities. Here are some strategies to create a sensory-friendly visual environment:

1. Use soft lighting

Instead of bright, fluorescent lights, opt for softer, dimmed lighting. This can create a more calming and comfortable atmosphere for individuals with sensory sensitivities.

2. Avoid excessive decorations

While decorations are an essential part of New Year's celebrations, it's important not to go overboard. Too many flashing lights or visually stimulating decorations can be overwhelming. Keep the decorations simple and considerate of sensory sensitivities.

3. Provide visual schedules or timers

For individuals who thrive on routine and predictability, providing visual schedules or timers can help them anticipate changes and reduce anxiety. This can be especially helpful during New Year's Eve when there might be deviations from the usual routine.

Creating a Calm and Inviting Space

In addition to minimizing noise and managing visual stimuli, it's important to create a calm and inviting space for individuals with sensory sensitivities. Consider the following:

1. Create a quiet area 

Designate a quiet space where individuals can retreat if they feel overwhelmed. This could be a separate room or a cozy corner with comfortable seating and sensory-friendly items like weighted blankets or fidget toys.

2. Offer sensory-friendly activities

Provide sensory-friendly activities that cater to different sensory preferences. This could include arts and crafts, sensory bins, or quiet games that individuals can engage in at their own pace.

3. Communicate and educate others

If you are hosting a New Year's event, communicate with your guests about the importance of creating a sensory-friendly environment. Educate them about sensory sensitivities and how they can support individuals with different sensory needs.

By making a few adjustments and being mindful of sensory sensitivities, it is possible to create a sensory-friendly New Year. Minimizing noise, managing visual stimuli, and creating a calm and inviting space can help individuals with sensory sensitivities enjoy the celebrations without feeling overwhelmed. Remember, inclusivity and understanding are key to creating a New Year that everyone can enjoy.

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