Sensory Overload and Avoidance Behaviour: Striking the Right Balance

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Managing sensory overload in individuals, especially children, is a delicate balance between encouraging participation and respecting their need to avoid overwhelming situations. This blog post addresses how to navigate this challenging dynamic effectively.


Understanding Sensory Overload


Sensory overload occurs when one or more of the body's senses experiences over-stimulation from the environment. It's important to recognize the signs of sensory overload and understand the individual’s specific sensory thresholds.


Encouraging Participation


Gradual Exposure: Slowly introduce the individual to sensory experiences, respecting their limits.


Choice and Control: Give them a sense of control by allowing them to choose activities or aspects of an experience.


Supportive Environment: Create a sensory-friendly environment that reduces the likelihood of overload.


Respecting Avoidance


Listening to Cues: Pay attention to non-verbal cues indicating discomfort or distress.


Safe Space: Provide a safe, quiet space where they can retreat if overwhelmed.


Validating Feelings: Acknowledge their feelings and reassure them that it’s okay to step back when needed.


Balancing Encouragement and Respect


Empathy and Understanding: Show empathy and understanding towards their sensory needs.


Flexibility: Be flexible and ready to adapt your approach based on their responses.


Professional Guidance


Consulting with specialists like occupational therapists can provide valuable insights into managing sensory overload. They can offer personalised strategies to find the right balance between encouragement and allowing avoidance.




Finding the balance in managing sensory overload requires patience, empathy, and a keen understanding of the individual's sensory needs. Remember, each person is unique, and what works for one may not work for another.


Schedule a Zoom Consultation


For specific advice on managing sensory overload and avoidance behavior, consider booking a free 15-minute Zoom consultation with me, Anne Laure Jackson. Click here to schedule your call with me.



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