Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), encompassing a wide range of neurodevelopmental disorders, is marked by issues in social interaction, communication, and repetitive behaviors. A particular hurdle that individuals with autism often encounter is autism overstimulation. This sensory overload can generate significant stress.
Overstimulation in autism frequently occurs when the individual’s brain struggles to process an influx of sensory information. It can come from any sensory channel—sound, sight, touch, taste, or smell—and can create a heightened state of stress and anxiety. According to research, overstimulation in autism does not stem from hypersensitivity, but rather from a different mode of experiencing the world.
Overstimulation and the subsequent emotional stress can deeply impact the lives of those with autism, potentially triggering reactions ranging from minor behavioral disturbances to full-blown meltdowns. Effectively managing overstimulation and stress is crucial to enhance the quality of life for individuals with autism.
Conscious breathing, the practice of maintaining awareness of and controlling one’s breathing pattern, is an effective strategy to mitigate the effects of overstimulation. Specifically, maintaining an optimal rate of 5 to 6 breaths per minute can exert a profound calming effect on the body and mind.
Parents and caregivers can find teaching any child to consciously slow their breathing to be a considerable undertaking. For autistic children who commonly prefer hands-on learning, this can be an even greater challenge. Yet, investing effort to support autistic children in learning to control their breathing might be the best long-term skill for emotional regulation.
Research shows that many autistic children and adults exhibit dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system, often leading to challenges in emotional regulation due to enduring overstimulation and irritability. The goal of many therapies, including psychology and occupational therapy, is to equip those with autism with the skills and habits to effectively manage emotional responses and overstimulation. Hence, breathing exercises have become a fundamental part of interventions aimed at enhancing self-regulation.
While conscious breathing is an excellent strategy, managing overstimulation and stress in autism often necessitates a multifaceted approach. For instance, dimming lights, lowering noise levels, or using noise-canceling headphones can be helpful in managing auditory overstimulation.
Calming devices for autism, such as squeeze items, have been proven to be effective in managing over-stimulation. Squeezing objects can provide deep pressure input, offering a calming effect on the sensory system, helping to regulate sensory processing, and reducing sensory overload.
There is emerging evidence that suggests that systematically squeezing your hand, an isometric exercise, has significant therapeutic benefits. Isometric exercise, wherein muscle strength is exerted without joint movement, releases tension, provides sensory input through muscle contraction, triggers the release of endorphins, and depending on which hand is used, stimulates specific areas of the brain.
Overcoming over-stimulation, a significant challenge in autism, is possible. Through the combined power of conscious breathing and isometric hand exercises with calming devices, individuals with autism can effectively manage overstimulation and the accompanying stress.
The journey to manage overstimulation and stress is unique for every individual with autism. It’s a journey of understanding, patience, and adaptability that promises a better quality of life.
bobi, a handheld breathing companion designed to help adopt the optimal conscious breathing habit, makes the practice of conscious breathing more accessible, especially for the neurodivergent community. With bobi, users can maintain a slow, measured breathing pace of 5 breaths per minute. By signaling when to inhale and exhale through touch, it helps manage the effects of over-stimulation.
Through conscious breathing, bobi encourages the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system, the body’s natural calming mechanism, counteracting over-stimulation and stress, and providing much-needed relief during moments of sensory overload. Utilise the benefits of bobi’s unique design to help address over stimulation by getting your bobi from here.
bobi guides the user to maintain an optimal rate of conscious breathing, which can help manage the effects of over-stimulation, offering a calming effect.
Definitely. Regular practice of conscious breathing, especially with bobi, can help manage overall stress levels and improve resilience during stressful situations.
Strategies may vary depending on individual sensitivities. They can range from reducing environmental triggers and using noise-cancelling headphones, to creating a safe, calming space at home.
Absolutely. Regular physical activities, maintaining a consistent routine and engaging in calming activities such as listening to soothing music can all aid in stress management for individuals with autism.
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– Zaccaro, A., Piarulli, A., Laurino, M., Garbella, E., Menicucci, D., Neri, B., & Gemignani, A. (2018). How breath-control can change your life: A systematic review on psycho-physiological correlates of slow breathing. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 12, 353. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnhum.2018.00353/full
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