In two weeks we will all wish each other a happy New Year. And many people with autism will also receive that wish. But what if we turn that wish into concrete actions that can really make a difference in the happiness of people with autism? In the last weeks before New Year I post 10 concrete actions that can make 2022 a happy/happier year for autistic people. No super big, impressive, world changing actions, but little things that can make a difference. Small interventions, based on theory and research, that can easily be applied and that can make life in 2022 a (more) H.A.P.P.Y. life for someone (or more people) on the autism spectrum. Make your New Year’s Resolutions for an autism-friendly 2022 concrete and join me in 10 easy to do autism friendly well-being actions. And remember: no act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.
Tip #3: Make a weekly sensory pleasure menu
The sensory environment is experienced by many people with autism as disturbing, annoying or even hostile. Sound, light, touch, certain textures in food and many other sensory input can lead to strong and unpleasant arousal in the brains of people with autism. This is known as sensory hyperreactivity.
It is good to take these sensory inconveniences into account when meeting autistic people, but a focus on the sensory issues in autism might make us forget that people with autism can also enjoy sensory pleasure.
So, here’s tip #3 to increase in 2022 the well-being of an autistic person you live or work with. Make a list of things that give the person a pleasant sensory experience and put them into a weekly menu. Every day a moment of sensory pleasure. E.g. on Monday a warm bath with bath bombs with a favorite scent, on Tuesday listening to rain forest sounds, on Wednesday wrapping yourself in soft fleece clothes, on Thursday watching a digital fish tank for 20 minutes, and so on. This menu could be the same for every week for those individuals who like routines. It can also be composed at random but with the same 7 activities, so that the warm bath is sometimes on Monday, sometimes on Tuesday etc. And for those people on the spectrum who prefer à la carte rather than a fixed menu, well let them make their own order every day from the menu.
No inspiration? Or the autistic person does not know his or her own sensory feel-good-profile? I have developed an Autism Good Feeling Questionnaire that is available – for free – in more than 10 languages. This questionnaire can help to find out what sensory input can give pleasure. See: https://autismincontext.be/browse/downloads