After addressing what sensory systems are and how they receive information differently in people with autism, I’m sure you’re ready for some strategies. Strategy suggestions are abundant for home and school, so I will discuss sensory strategies for the workplace. Most of the strategies I will offer are helpful in multiple locations. Use them where you need them.
As with a lot of strategies for people with ASD, being proactive is the key to success. And the good news is, sensory strategies in the workplace are easy to implement.
Look at the environment
Once you understand sensory needs and sensitivities, scan the environment for possible changes. A sensory friendly environment can increase creative thinking, improve relationships, and ultimately increase productivity. Have a look at the offices of Google. I realize this is a high bar to set, however, if you can utilize any of their sensory strategies in your workplace, you will see the benefits.
Think About Your Individual Employees
You can also use my previous blog regarding the signs of hypo (under) and hyper (over)-sensitivity to see if anyone seems to be affected by sensory challenges. As a general rule, thinking with compassion before reacting to quirky behavior can encourage cohesive team development. Be understanding and open minded, just because you experience something one way doesn’t mean that is the only way it is experienced.
Below I list easily implementable sensory strategies for the workplace.
Try them out and see if there is an improvement. You can alleviate stress and energize people with sensory differences.
Here are some examples of how to help manage sensory differences. (I have only described sensory sensitivities that can be addressed in a general way. You may already be doing some of these things. It is also possible that an individual may need advanced and/or individualized strategies. Contact us at Independent With Autism for personalized suggestions.)
Vision (Sight) Sensory Strategies for the Workplace,
Fluorescent lighting can interfere with sight in both those with hypersensitivity and those with hyposensitivity. Ideally, fluorescent lighting should be replaced, however, this is not always possible or practical.
- Remove as much fluorescent lighting as you can.
In addition, or as an alternative to removing fluorescent lighting:
- Seat people with vision concerns near sources of natural light
- Allow or provide lamps as an alternative light source
- Send written information in a format with increased white space around the essential information.
- Follow up written communications with a discussion.
Audition (Hearing) Sensory Strategies for THE Workplace
- Have silent workspaces available for quiet work styles
- Conversely, have areas set aside for conversation or louder work styles
- Allow or provide headphones and/ or earplugs to be used for either blocking out sound or adding extra input if that is what is needed.
- Follow up discussions with written confirmation of action items
Olfaction (Smell) Sensory Strategies for THE Workplace
- Use unscented cleaning products
- Give people workstations away from sources of odor (kitchen, bathroom).
Somatosensation (Touch) Strategies for THE Workplace
- Ask before touching anyone
- Work with individuals to find clothing options that are acceptable and comfortable
Vestibular (Balance) Sensory Strategies for THE Workplace
- Space with rocking chairs, beanbag chairs, room to move
- Options of standing desks, swivel chairs, or ball chairs
How to handle Sensory Meltdowns
If you haven’t had the opportunity to start your proactive sensory strategies for your workplace, people will respond, and possibly become overwhelmed by sensory input in their environment.
When someone becomes overwhelmed, whether they are shouting, crying, pushing people away, or sitting quietly without responding, try to remember they are communicating with you in the only way they can at that moment. Please be patient and kind.
Rebecca J. Weaver is a Certified Autism Specialist at Independent with Autism, working to empower individuals with ASD. Need help creating sensory strategies? Check out IndependentwithAutism.com for more information.