By Josie Simon, June 9 2023—
As someone with sensory processing disorder (SPD), summer can be a challenging and overwhelming time of year. The heat and humidity can feel suffocating and the way clothing clings to my skin can be unbearable. Unfortunately, this means missing out on all the fun activities that come with summer — from pool parties to beach outings to family barbeques.
But it doesn’t have to be this way — with helpful tips and tricks, those with SPD can confidently navigate the summer months and enjoy the season just like everyone else. Here are some tips to help you stay cool, comfortable and have fun during the summer.
1. Create a summer uniform
Coming up with a summer uniform means selecting a set of clothes that you are comfortable wearing. Wearing tried-and-tested clothes can reduce anxiety and make you feel more comfortable during the summer. Once you establish the fabrics and textures you prefer, try to duplicate them in your summer wardrobe. Cotton, linen, and bamboo are great options for clothing since they do not trap heat and allow air to flow in and out of the material.
2. Use cooling accessories
Cooling accessories like neck fans, cooling towels, and freezable water bottles can help you regulate your body temperature and feel more comfortable in hot weather. These accessories can be purchased online or at a local sporting goods store.
3. Take breaks
Taking breaks is essential for people with sensory processing disorders. Scheduling time during the day to recharge from loud, crowded, or uncomfortable environments can help regulate emotions and encourage relaxation.
4. Wear a face mask to lessen unpleasant smells
Summer can be full of unpleasant smells from sweaty people, car exhaust, barbecues, or even over-pollinated plants. Wearing a face mask can lessen the impact of these unpleasant smells to help you avoid sensory overload.
5. Use fidget toys
Fidget toys can provide soothing feedback for individuals with sensory processing disorders. These toys help to reduce anxiety and may help regulate sensory input. From stress balls to textured keychains, fidget toys come in various forms, catering to a range of needs and preferences.
6. Wear sunglasses and visors
Individuals with sensory processing disorders may find it difficult to tolerate bright sunlight. To reduce the chances of experiencing sensory overload, try wearing sunglasses and visors that can dim the intensity of the sun’s rays.
7. Seek out sensory-friendly activities
Festivals, concerts, and amusement parks are popular summer activities that can be overwhelming for those with sensory processing disorders. Look for sensory-friendly events that offer a quieter and less crowded atmosphere. Some museums and theatres offer special sensory-friendly showings with dim lighting and lowered volume.
8. Plan for outdoor activities
If you plan to head outdoors for a long time, pack a sensory-friendly kit, including earplugs, sunglasses, a hat, and sunscreen. Consider bringing items that provide soothing sensory input, such as a weighted blanket, fidget toys, or noise-cancelling headphones. Bring a cooler with icy drinks or frozen treats to help cool down and relieve sensory overload.
9. Wear sunscreen and apply translucent powder to decrease oiliness
Sunscreen is essential for protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful rays, but it can also be greasy and uncomfortable to wear. To reduce oiliness, apply translucent powder over your sunscreen with a makeup brush. The translucent powder will help absorb excess oil and keep your skin feeling fresh and dry.
10. Use earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones
Summer activities such as fireworks, concerts, and sporting events can be overwhelming for those with sensory sensitivities. Using earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones can help reduce the intensity of loud noises and create a more peaceful environment.
11. Find quiet places to decompress
When the summer crowds and noise become too much to handle, it is important to find quiet places to take a break and decompress. Look for shaded areas or indoor spaces with air conditioning where you can rest and recover. Consider listening to music or bringing activities such as a book or fidget toys to help you relax.
Summer can be a challenging season for those with sensory processing disorders, but it does not have to be a source of stress and discomfort. With a few tips and tricks, you can beat the heat and stay relaxed and comfortable all season long!
This article is a part of our Voices section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet editorial board.