Day#12 of our #AsIAmChallenge is about being aware of people’s sensory needs. Autistic individual’s brains often struggle to process the information we receive about our surroundings from our senses. If there is too much stimulation, it can cause serious anxiety and even meltdowns. By being aware of one another’s needs however, we can all make real progress in making new situations and environments easier to adapt to.
This week, we visited a number of businesses and public services as part of our campaign for World Autism Awareness Month. The people we met came from different backgrounds and interests, all eager to take part in the #AsIAmChallenge to make their workplaces autism and sensory friendly.
Our team conducted sensory audits with each of the different locations we visited. Sensory audits help staff to assess and create an environment that enables the participation of autistic customers and service users. It does not cover all aspects, but it does give ideas on the ways in which a setting might be altered if individuals experience sensory processing difficulties and find it hard or very anxiety-provoking to tolerate certain sensations or situations.
GATEWAY STUDENT VILLAGE, BALLYMUN
Moving away from home is a daunting challenge for anyone. The process’ uncertainty and unpredictability can be especially tough for autistic people. A new home, new people and new routines will be hard to adapt to if the right supports are not in place.
Gateway Student Village houses a number of third-level students in the greater Dublin area, many of them on the autism spectrum themselves. We spoke with manager John Russell about the importance of sensory awareness and how setting a level playing field when accessing services benefits everyone.
SCIENCE GALLERY, DUBLIN
Science is a common interest for many on the autism spectrum. Encouraging those interests are ideal ways of supporting people in their personal development, from education to teaching social skills. The settings where autistic individuals can take part in their passions should be as inclusive and supportive as possible.
Sarah Jennings, a guide at the Dublin Science Gallery, explained the importance of conducting sensory audits in crucial learning environments like museums.
HAIRLOUGH BARBERS, CLONDALKIN
Personal grooming can be a difficult task for many autistic people, for adults as well as children. Hypersensitivity to certain odours, sounds and textures can make even a bath or shower tough to experience for some. Without the right awareness, individuals’ personal hygiene suffers and impacts not only on their social interactions with other people, but also their physical health.
Hairlough Babers have been running afternoons for autistic customers each Sunday for the past three years. Darren Clarke, the manager of the Clonadalkin shop, spoke about the importance of patience when accommodating an autistic person.