Hey everybody, NeuroRebel here, and today we’re talking about sensory protective gear.
[00:00:42] Okay, in all seriousness, I probably wouldn’t wear all of those things at once together. That makes absolutely no sense and since I’m in my natural environment, I actually don’t need any of those things right now at this time and some of these things I don’t get out unless I go in public, which these days isn’t very frequently, but these tools have been very helpful through the years and so I’d like to show you some of the sensory tools that I have in my own personal sensory arsenal.
[00:01:15] So part of my autistic experience is being very sensitive to lighting and fluorescent lighting and the lighting that is used in a lot of commercial buildings is an extremely bad trigger for me.
[00:01:27] Also squinting into the sun can cause problems in much the same way, especially, you know, at that sunset time when the sun is like stabbing into your windshield and you’re trying to drive, I really can’t handle that.
[00:01:41]When I was working in buildings and used to go into an office to do my job, I had some sunglasses like these that I would wear inside and this is the color that I found for me that helped block out what in the light was overloading me and every autistic person is different.
[00:02:07] And so one thing you might try is get a bunch of cheap colored sunglasses. And if you have headaches or sensory overload from light, try them in that lighting and see if the different colors help.
[00:02:19] What helps for me, isn’t going to help everyone but I found that amber color really helped me because it turned out that I was having a reaction to blue lighting specifically and so now home, in my natural environment, I have natural lighting. We use light bulbs that are warmer most of the time, and we have some blue light bulbs we turn on when we clean, but we don’t have those on very frequently because I know they can trigger headaches and sensory overload in me but I always have a pair of shades with me or a clip on when I am going out into the world because bright sunlight is too much for me. I feel like the gremlin – bright, light, bright light, no, – because I just can’t handle it, but it will really be the quickest thing to give me sensory overload personally.
[00:03:09] The other thing that I have a lot of, or had a lot of when I was working in an office and had to go sit in an environment with fluorescent lighting was a lot of hats.
[00:03:21] I don’t have as many hats now but like I said, the sun glares can be a problem to me. So when I go outside, if it’s a really bright day, I have some fun hats with brims that help block light so I can look down and block light so that I’m not squinting and getting sensory overload and in pain all day.
[00:03:39] This is actually one of my favorite hats is just a cheap dollar store hat. I love it and this is another hat if I need to look more formal, I’ve got a fedora for winter. I have these hats that have brims that can block light from my eyes, see how it shades my eyes depending on where I wear it, I love fedoras cause you can pop them back when you don’t need it and get it out of the way on your head. It’s like a great light blocking hat that it’s very versatile.
[00:04:08]I had so many hats when I had to go into the office and they were a really great shield for my, for my eyes against lighting and I loved them.
[00:04:18] It was really important for me to get this under control and find ways to protect myself from this lighting because when I found that I was Autistic, I realized that I had been having migraines for 29 years of my life because of lighting and because of sensory overload and when I stopped exposing myself to that lighting through, blocking it out with sensory gear and then eventually working remotely and not being around that lighting except for every now and then when you run into a store or something quickly, I have stopped having migraines. I almost never have migraines anymore.
[00:04:56] I’ve had. I don’t know. I don’t know the last time I had one, but I was having them almost every single day. I was having the multiple days a week any time I had to go sit onto the lighting. Before I started to use sensory protective gear, I had so many migraines and sensory overload and I was really, really sick.
[00:05:18] Something else about working in an office is, it can be hard to focus with all of the background noise.
[00:05:29] I could hear the fluorescent lights humming and my desk above me all day. I can hear every footstep walking behind me and every time I hear a footstep, because I think visually I would see feet all day just distracting me from my work and some things that I found were very helpful were noise, canceling headphones, and you don’t need something fancy like these here. Even just really cheap noise canceling headphones or even headphones that don’t necessarily noise, cancel and can put music on can be really great.
[00:06:08] I actually, these are some of my favorite headphones right here. Just the cheap headphones that came with my phone. Nothing fancy, but it’s just something to put some music on to kind of drown out the background noise so that I have a bit more control because I have noticed that sound really does have an influence on me.
[00:06:30] Now I work at home by myself in my quiet RV as long as the dogs are asleep. I also have a quiet workspace I can retreat to at this point, if I need a quiet space where I can have silence and be completely uninterrupted, but it was very hard for me to have that guaranteed in an office. So I would create that by creating my own music sound bubble with headphones and other devices.
[00:06:59] Going out into stores and things sometimes I wouldn’t necessarily want music and so there are other things I would use, like here are just some simple, reusable earplugs and there are a lot of different kinds of earplugs. There are some like really nice squishy ones that I have that you can squish into your ear and they don’t really go in as far as these, if you’re squirmish about stuff going further in your ear like that.
[00:07:26] So there’s a lot of things you can do to protect yourself from sound.
[00:07:30] Every Autistic person has a different sensory profile and different sensory experience. Some of us are sensitive to temperature and this can impact us in different ways.
[00:07:41] There are, are autistic people who are more sensitive to cold and there are also autistic people who are more sensitive heat. There are also autistic people who are not very sensitive to temperature at all, and anywhere in between.
[00:07:57] I am someone who gets cold very easily. If it is below 76 degrees Fahrenheit, I am uncomfortable.
[00:08:09] So I always have to have a sweater of some sorts when I go out, because any building I walk into is going to be set colder than that probably by maybe even 10 degrees, as much as 10 degrees. So I am really cold and like walk into every building like this, especially if I forget to have a jacket or a sweater.
[00:08:31]I don’t know why offices tend to be the coldest, stinkin’ and buildings. I go into offices with things like blankets and sweaters and jackets, and people are like, why are you wearing a leather jacket? It’s summer time. It’s like, okay. It may be somewhere out there, but it feels like winter in this office to me.
[00:08:53]I always had to dress extra warm for any office I would go work into. And that was another problem for me about working in the office is it is a little bit of a distraction because my body is so tense and tight from just being cold all day that I get just really sore from being in the office by the end of the day I leave and I’m just like, physically like I can’t wait to go, just be in the sun and the Texas sun – cause it’s hot here where I’m from.
[00:09:21] Maybe I’m lizard. I need to go be out in the sun and warm my body up because I am freezing from being in the office. I don’t know. They are never warm enough for me. I am always cold. I have even worn gloves inside certain buildings when their air conditioning was set to cold before. I couldn’t survive in a really cold climate for long but I love the idea of snow.
[00:09:45] A lot of these sensory issues I’ve mentioned so far are easily alleviated by just letting me work from home. I’m very able to self pace and self-manage myself with little supervision and in fact do better without being micromanaged and having someone constantly over my shoulder, as long as I’ve been given clear direction and understand what it is that I’m supposed to be doing.
[00:10:09]Sometimes you still have to go into the office and so these tools have been very useful to me.
[00:10:17] Another part of working in an office and working with other people is attending meetings and something that I’ve found helpful with helping me stay engaged in a meeting when there are lots of people talking and lots of things going on are some of these different various stim tools.
[00:10:38] And so I often in meetings would have something like this or this
[00:10:47] or this
[00:10:52] or this
[00:10:56] or this – this poor thing has been into my pocket a lot,
[00:11:01] or this
[00:11:04] or this.
[00:11:09] Often under the table in my lap, as I sat in meetings just quietly in between my fingers, not disrupting or bothering anyone, I actually still do this even now in meetings while working remotely and it’s very easy for me to do this off camera, actually, these rings that I’m wearing all three of them are spinner rings and so usually I’ll pop a ring off when I am on zoom calls, because I’m on zoom calls very frequently. I am sitting here spinning one of these rings off camera or taking it off my finger and doing this, probably 75% of the time, but people have no idea because it’s a Zoom. So the Zoom actually hides a lot of this and stacks things in my favor a lot of times.
[00:12:03] Working remote just makes my life so much easier.
[00:12:06] Random, fun fact about this. This was one of my favorite stims before I found out I was Autistic.
[00:12:20] When I was really studying Buddhism and meditation, I really enjoyed the soothingness of moving the beads over and counting the beads and just being present, moving beads.
[00:12:36] Stimming for me can kind of be a way to keep me grounded, but it can also be something that is almost mindfulness and meditative in a way. I don’t think I’m doing that justice by trying to explain it, but this was something of mine that was a stim tool that I was carrying around with me in my pocket and on my wrist for a year or maybe more before I was diagnosed Autistic at the age of 29.
[00:13:07] So the point is I was gravitating towards sensory and stim tools and I didn’t even know why. I’ve just always been drawn to them and now that I know I’m Autistic, it’s just like, ha ha, oh, it all makes sense now. Go figure of course, you know. It’s just this aha moment over and over and over again since discovering the truth little over four years ago now at this point.
[00:13:34] All right, let me know what stim and sensory tools are you using? What are your go-tos? What have you done to protect yourself from this world that isn’t always designed with neurodivergent brains in mind, unfortunately?
[00:13:52] We are a long way from having a world that is sensory friendly. Right now it’s up to us a lot of times to pick up the Slack of protecting ourselves.
[00:14:02] I wish we could make those fluorescent lights illegal, but you know, we need to start a petition or something. I don’t know what we do, but we’re not there yet. So in the meantime, We need to use our tools and our resources that we’ve got.
[00:14:17] Let’s share resources with each other. Drop your resources in the comments below what sensory protective tools work for you. We’re all different. Like I said, this is just my experience as one Autistic person with my very unique sensory profile.
[00:14:33] Like I said, in the beginning, not every Autistic person will have the same sensory needs or the same sensory profile. So these tools may not work for everyone. I just hope they are helpful to you.
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2 thoughts on “Autistic Sensory Protection – Gear for Sensory Processing Differences”
For me, my go-to stim tool is still the good old fidget spinner. Per your recommendation I bought an assortment of spinners from WeFidget and they’ve saved my bacon multiple times. I also enjoy flicking rubber bands, and I even find using chopsticks to eat (particularly stuff like sushi) to be quite stimmy also.
Concerning lighting, I keep my house lit with very specific light bulbs (the GE LED “Relax” – very soft/warm lightning), and my sunglasses are never far from me when out and about on a bright, sunny day.
Concerning temperature sensitivity, I’m actually the extreme opposite of you – I’m very sensitive to heat. I’ll be in a sleeveless shirt and shorts in 55-60 degree (F) weather and be quite comfortable. My Gravatar picture (wearing nothing but a brief-style swimsuit) was taken on a sunny 65F day in February; and I was sweating! I’m glad that I don’t work in an office anymore, so I don’t have to wear all that hot professional clothing!
Anyway, that’s my personal experience. I realize every one of us is different, of course.