Every single day our brain is bombarded with a multitude of messages and sensory information. Loud cars, flashing lights, constant hum of electronic appliances, human conversations, loud crowds, music and noises, bright, flashing lights, tactile sensations of clothes rubbing against our skin, different textures and tastes of food, different human expressions ¦that may be difficult to read.
Many people have an ability to filter daily sensory stimulations and focus only on the ones that are important. In other words, they distance themselves from sensations and pay their attention to other things that they judge as more important.
Some people however have difficulties in filtering sensory stimulation and tend to focus their full attention on all their sensations, finding it difficult to distinguish which ones are important. This often leads to sensory overload and in some situations to a sensory meltdown, where individuals loose emotional control and react with disruptive and aggressive behaviour.
Common reasons for sensory meltdown, include “fight or flight” reaction to sensory overload, difficulties in maintaining “self-regulation”, lack of sleep, change in routine, over tiredness, inability to communicate wishes and wants, the inability to cope with a challenging situation.
The Fight or Flight response may involve:
- Aggressive behaviours such as hitting, kicking, pushing or biting.
- Crying and screaming
- Escaping or running away
- Hiding. This may also include trying to curl up or covering eyes or ears. Shutting down i.e. not speaking / not responding or even falling asleep.
Strategies for management of sensory meltdown:
- Encourage the person to walk away from adverse sensory stimuli (or else minimise it as much as possible
- Encourage the person to relax by refocusing on their breathing in a quiet room, for as long as required. Let the person do this on their own terms. The use of a gentle, relaxing music may also be beneficial.
- Avoid arguing, bargaining, or trying to convince individuals who experience sensory meltdown to behave differently.
- At this very moment, they are unable to behave differently and your requests to change their behaviour are likely to overwhelm them even more.
- Recognise that in the times of sensory meltdown the brain function has shifted to the “fight or flight” response and that the cortical function is inhibited, preventing the person’s engagement in thinking, judging and reasoning. Their behaviour at this moment is not a behavioural stand point or an attempt to annoy others
People who experience sensory overloads and meltdowns can benefit from Clinical Hypnotherapy. Clinical Hypnotherapy provides an effective solution for sensory challenges by assisting people in learning relaxation and self-regulation techniques for a long term self- management of sensory overloads and meltdowns.