In a world that constantly presents images and sounds vying for attention, it can be overwhelming to try and understand what is being presented. During the summer, these sounds and images can be even more overpowering. Think of a crowded beach or a day spent at the fair; to a child with sensory needs, or to someone on the autistic spectrum, these elements can be a trigger and have disastrous results.
Sensory Friendly Summer in San Diego
More and more institutions in San Diego are beginning to offer quiet areas that reduce the amount of visual and auditory stimuli. These quiet or "take-a-break" areas provide necessary balance between the outer environment and inner emotional or intellectual state. As a parent or a guardian of a child with sensory/learning needs, this balance can be even more vital to making sure that the summer runs smoothly for all involved.
Many museums in San Diego County offer opportunities for children to engage with their exhibits in an environment with less sound and stimulation. Many of these, including the San Diego Natural History Museum and Reuben H Fleet Space Center in Balboa Park open an hour early before the public gain access to allow for an appropriate experience.
Resources at San Diego Children Discovery Museum
In North County, on the first Sunday of each month from 9 to 10 a.m., San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum opens an hour early for sensory sensitive kids. The Museum also has an indoor quiet area inside to allow children and families to regroup, and several quieter outdoor spaces in its Children's Discovery Garden. During regular hours, sound canceling headphones can be checked out at the front desk if needed. The staff at San Diego Children's Discovery Museum is also trained in spectrum interactions.
How to Create Your Own Quiet Area
It is also possible to create your own quiet area at home if getting out of the house just isn’t feasible yet (and for many of us with small children, the very idea makes us shudder). Make your own quiet area with the following tips:
- Find a spot in the house that sees less traffic
- Add some pillows to the area and a soft, fuzzy blanket or other comfy objects
- Bring in some of your child’s favorite books
- Play soft music or white noise
Having a space to retreat to when the world is too much isn’t just important for those with sensory needs -- it’s also super important for adults and children in general! It’s been a hot and busy summer for many of us. The chance to catch your breath while also managing to get out of the house is not one to be missed. Take advantage of many of the local offerings for individuals with sensory and autistic capabilities and make sure that you maintain that ever-important balance between stimuli and respite. It’s important for you, as the caregiver, as well.
If you have a child this has sensory needs or is on the autistic spectrum, the Museum has many resources to help you plan your visit. For more information about our programs and resources, visit http://sdcdm.org/visit/special-needs.
Katie Roach is an Educator with a background in early childhood education. A mom of five children, some with sensory and learning needs, she enjoys learning more about sensory education and sharing it with others.