Sometimes events, travel and sports games can become very overwhelming for a person with a sensory disability. With all these sounds, smells and sights to see, it can sometimes overload a person's thought processes with the overstimulation of their senses.
Quiet zones are designed specifically to help them calm down and reduce sensory overload
Sensory rooms can be developed to have tactile, auditory or visual stimulation
Quiet zones may have special support staff available to help assist
What causes sensory overload?
The brain has a complex neural system and translates and relays information depending on the environment.
How that input of information is interpreted and the reactions to that information can be a telltale sign someone might be in sensory overload.
For some people, with all this information coming in at once, the brain can frantically try to interpret everything it is experiencing and the brain may eventually tell the body to get away from the huge sensory overload.
Sensory overload can cause a person to have difficulty focusing on what they are seeing or experiencing and can make the person cover their ears or shut their eyes to stop the sensory input.
It can also cause mood swings like irritability, restlessness and discomfort, cause feelings of over excitement, stress, fear or anxiety, and can result in heightened sensitivity to textures, fabrics or other things that touch the skin.
A good way to handle a sensory overload is to head to a quiet zone at a festival or sports game, which has been specifically developed to be a relaxing space for someone effected by overstimulation of the senses.
Where are quiet zones?
A quiet zone or room is specifically set aside from the hustle and bustle of a festival, a show or a sports game.
Generally, the rooms are quiet, not crowded and have reduced sensory stimulation to help the adult or child be able to relax.
Sometimes, the quiet zone may have special needs support staff available to help assist.
Additionally, the room will have basic distractions to help the individual or child take their mind off the sensory burden.
A lot of different places, like museums, have implemented low sensory events specifically for people with sensory difficulties so they can still experience the wonders of art without being overwhelmed.
A good example of an event making a difference is the Ability Fest, organised by The Dylan Alcott Foundation, which is specifically an accessible event for people with all ranges of disability, including people with a sensory disability with an available quiet zone.
St Kilda Football Club have previously used quiet zones at different matches so that dedicated fans could come along to a game without being overwhelmed by raucous crowds and big sounds.
The space allocated as a quiet zone was a quiet, dimly lit room that had a big screen with the match playing with no sound on. Also available in the room was noise-reducing headphones, toys, putty and colouring books.
The quiet zone was such a success, the Australian Football League (AFL) is considering making the rooms mandatory at all stadiums.
How can a quiet zone help me?
Many children, or even adults, can benefit from the quiet zone which are designed specifically to help them calm down and reduce sensory overload.
Sensory rooms can be developed to have tactile, auditory or visual stimulation that will help the individual relax.
In a sensory room, it’s not only about the outside sound, but can also other sounds like fridges humming or the sound of lights. Once someone is in sensory overload, they can be a lot more sensitive to sounds.
Studies have found quiet zones beneficial for someone who is experiencing a sensory overload, they are able to find a space to decompress during a sensory episode.
The Department of Education in each State and Territory even encourage quiet “nooks” for students with sensory sensitivity, so they can self-manage and learn when they need to take a break.
Anytime you head a show, festival or sports game, check with the organisation if they have any dedicated spaces for a quiet zone which can be helpful if the event becomes too much.
Quiet zones are a great way to reduce the stress of the individual or family if they are concerned about sensory overload while out at events or in public.
What do you think about quiet zones? Tell us in the comment section below.