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Sensory Processing Resources

Sensory Systems infographic

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Sensory Supports

There are lots of individualised supports and resources to enable you to participate in your student life.

  • Reasonable Accommodations within learning environments: Based upon your Needs Assessment / Occupational Therapy assessment additional accommodation may be recommended for learning environments such as lectures, labs or placement.
  • Occupational Therapy supports: Specialist sensory assessment and intervention to enable you to understand your sensory processing in relation to your role in college and develop strategies to manage the college environment.
  • Examination supports: Low distraction examination or individual venues can be recommended from your needs assessment, and you can work with us on developing sensory strategies for exams such as lighting set up, using noise cancelling headsets or taking sensory breaks.
  • Noise Cancelling Headphones: As part of Occupational Therapy process the use of noise cancelling headphones may be recommended for on-going use in college.  Headphones will also be provided directly from the library when restrictions allow.

Tips from Students

  • “There are some lovely quiet spots on campus- the respite room, corners of the various libraries, nooks in upstairs hallways in the arts building, the foyer of the museum building. Identify a few good spots where you can retreat and get a break, so if you arrive at one and it's in use/not actually that quiet, you have some backup possibilities. Also: don't be afraid to advocate for what you need.” 
  • “The Disability Service provided me with noise cancelling headphones which have made my life so much easier. In fact, I wear them almost 24/7, they have been life changing. I live on a busy road and since I am mainly studying from home due to Covid it has really helped me to feel calm as the headphones block out all noise, I used to get really irritated and upset before I had them.”
  • “Be kind to yourself, and if you find noisy or busy areas challenging then avoid going during peak hours. My guess is you already know what works for you, so don’t feel you have to follow the crowd if it is unbearable.”
  • “I find silicone earplugs are the best, I use them every night!”
  • “One thing I wish I'd known about sooner is the quiet space of the small chapel, which became a refuge for me when I did go to campus. It is incredible how quiet it could be in there given the activities on campus.”
  • “For study, I sometimes could work well on the 5th floor of the Ussher library, or a big empty table in the Buttery.”

Tips from the Disability Service Occupational Therapists

  • Get to know yourself. What are your sensory preferences? Where do you work best?  We can help you with this, please contact us to find out more.
  • Be aware of your environments. Where do you work most? What kind of sensory stimuli are in this environment? How strong is this stimulus? Is it familiar, repetitive or unpredictable? Is there more than one stimulus that you have to manage?
  • Where possible – find / create spaces that suit your sensory preferences.
  • Be aware of what you are doing.  Are these activities calming or alerting? How do your sensory preferences impact what you do?
  • Schedule Sensory time. Give yourself what you need. Whether it is a quiet space, some time outside in nature, a walk or some other exercise, or a few minutes in low level lighting, make sure to give yourself some sensory time regularly in your day.

Tips for Managing Online Sensory Environments

As many of us are studying and working online at present, we have prepared some tips in managing this sensory environment.

Tips to reduce anxiety and sensory overload before going online.

  • Set up a space where you can comfortably do your work. If you need any seating supports, have these ready before the start of your online class.
  • Have ready any sensory items you may want to use during an online class. (Deep pressure, weighted aids, fidget toys, stress ball, sunglasses)
  • Before an online class, test your microphone and speaker settings and adjust to a level you are comfortable with.
  • If you feel hypersensitive to visual input, you could adjust the brightness of your screen or change to a night filter to reduce visual input or use a blue light filter.

Video Interactions

Video interactions can require additional sensory processing. At in-person meetings and classes, there is only one environment to process. On online video calls and tutorials, you manage the sensory inputs in both your own physical environment and in others. Below are some tips on how to reduce the impact of managing multiple sensory environments.

  • You can make your own environment more calming by using low lighting to reduce visual stimuli or setting up a study space in an area where you can get lots of natural lighting.
  • Create a comfortable place to sit or stand in an area that limits background distractions so that you can maximise focus.

Managing ‘Zoom Fatigue’

In their research into zoom fatigue, Bailenson (2021) found several factors of online interaction that can cause exhaustion. Please see some tips below on managing this.

  • Research has shown that movement helps to improve cognitive functioning. In-person conversations or on the phone, we tend to move around while interacting. Online can feel restrictive. Often the camera is in a set place, meaning that we have to stay in the same position. In an age where everyone is adjusting to online communication, much emphasis has been put on looking good on screen, which often involves holding unnatural poses that limit movement for long periods.
  • Are you feeling crowded online or like your personal space is being invaded?
    • You can increase your personal space and create a space to move in by working with wireless headphones or a wireless keyboard that allow you to be further away from the screen but still be heard and still be able to type.
  • Seeing our own face stare back at us during video meetings can be exhausting as it can increase the feeling that we are being watched and need to perform. If we were to constantly carry a mirror around with us in in-person interactions as we do in online video interactions, it would be odd. Studies have shown that this constant view of yourself can be a source of tension, as when we see ourselves, we tend to be more self-critical.
    • To reduce this stress, you can set your setting to hide self-view in video calls.
  • Find there is just too much eye contact?
    • Try looking away every now and again, reduce the overall window size you see the video on to decrease intensity.