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A lot of kids with sensory problems or with autistic behaviors seem to melt down when their parents take the them shopping. The reason for a meltdown in these types of situations is often because of sensory overload. A child may be able to deal with lots of people when at home, and may be able to deal with lots to look at when in a comfortable place, but when you have too much of everything all at the same time, it can become too much. Add in hunger or tiredness, and the child may not be able to tolerate it.

Reasons for sensory overload:

  • Usually when there is a lot going on at one time
  • Too much noise
  • Too many people
  • Too much to look at
  • Too many people wanting to talk to you
  • Tired
  • Hungry

If your child melts down in these situations, you do not want to avoid the situation. You need to help your child figure out how to deal with it, and experiencing the situation is the only way to learn how to deal with it.

1st step – determine the cause

The first step is to determine if it is sensory overload that is contributing to the meltdowns.

2nd step – find out what calms or soothes

Next you need to figure out what calms your child down. It could be a special toy, rocking, hugs or pressure, rubbing or playing with a toy.

3rd step – include a calming aspect to the overloading situation

You can take a calming activity with you when you go to the store to help the child learn how to use calming strategies when in a stressful and overload situation.

Ideas of calming strategies to try

  • Weighted backpack (put bottles of water or cans in the backpack)
  • A distracting toy to let the child focus on one fun thing to make it easier to ignore the overload
  • Bring a special blanket or toy that is calming
  • Give extra hugs
  • Give the child a job to do, such as look for something specific, or carry the coupon book

Calming Essential Oils

There are many parents who have experienced benefits of some calming scents in overwhelming situations.  Dayna from Lemon Lime Adventures has used a calming blend of essential oils to help minimize her son’s meltdowns.  I have a friend who has used the stress away blend to calm down a meltdown before it became too strong.

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Tonya is a pediatric Occupational Therapist, and loves creating things to work on skills and solve problems.

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