Remaining calm becomes difficult when people are flooded with emotions or stimuli. Calming down corners provide a safe place to relax and process upsetting feelings and events.
People who experience difficulties processing sensory information, such as autistic people, those with sensory processing disorder (SPD), or highly sensitive people, can sometimes go into a state of sensory overload. Overload occurs when a person experiences too much sensory stimulation and cannot handle it all.
Sometimes an Autistic person may behave in a way that you wouldn’t immediately link to sensory sensitivities.
A person who struggles to deal with everyday sensory information can experience sensory overload, or information overload.
Too much information can cause stress, anxiety, and possibly physical pain.
This can result in withdrawal, challenging behaviour or meltdown.
Below are ways to create a calming corner in your home and how this could be achieved.
Remember that a calming corner is a safe space where you can calm down and one that you feel comfortable in.
For me retreating to a calm down corner/space is perfect for when I am angry, frustrated, anxious, or beginning to feel overwhelmed.
I am always aware (to the best of my ability) of my behaviour and I attempt to be on the lookout for signs that I am beginning to become overwhelmed and need a break.
Creating the Corner
Choose a quiet place in your home. Pick a place with minimal noise and activity this could be
In a bedroom
In a closet
Under a bed
In a room that isn’t used often
For me I use my bedroom. It’s a familiar setting and I know where everything is if I need it and I know that I am safe there
Make the area comfortable
Pillows, blankets, weighted blankets, stuffed animals, beanbag chairs, and soft rugs all make the place feel more relaxing.
I have a sensory box full of things that I know will calm me down if I’ve encountered a trigger. I have blackout blinds, my noise cancelling headphones and my word search books all sitting in a plastic box which sits underneath my bed.
Find ways if it’s possible to minimise the sensory input.
Try a radio with a white noise CD, chairs with large backs to block the view, curtains, and other ways to isolate the corner.
Some people like to curl up underneath or behind objects. Try creating a makeshift tent or using furniture in unconventional ways.
I like to curl up under a heavy weighted blanket which lays on top of me as I lay in my bed.
Add a few sensory tools.
This could involve.
Audio: a radio soothing music playing.
Visual: Drawings with the user’s favourite colour, snow globes, photo albums, blankets/pillows in calming colours. I have some great colouring in books that I have on hand inside my sensory box.
Tactile: Fidget toys with various textures, and soft stuffed animals or pillows.
Olfactory/Gustatory: Lollipops, hard candies, candles, sweet-smelling lotions or soaps, chewy toys or jewellery.
Proprioceptive: Weighted blankets, beanbags, or deep pressure vests.
Place some basic activities in the corner.
This provides something to do while calming down. As you choose activities, think about what usually helps calm or distract the person.
Puzzles or puzzle books
I enjoy playing word search games on my phone/I-pad which can be downloaded from the app store.
Explain the basic purpose of the corner to your family/housemates
Inform those people that the corner is a place for you to calm down and be alone.
You could say the following to them;
“When I get sensory overload, I need to be alone, and trying to interact with other people only makes it worse. I made this corner so I can have a place to recover. When I’m in there, please leave me alone.”
Explain the importance of the person being left alone in the corner
At first, people may not understand the need to be alone, and they may try to interrupt the person to ask questions or make conversation. Emphasise that the person should be left alone if possible. And ask those around you to keep any as quiet as possible whilst you are in your calming corner. You could explain the importance of being left alone in your calming corner you could say “When I’m in the corner, I really need to be alone. Don’t interrupt me unless it’s urgent”
Carry on the Conversation
Do you have a calming corner?
Do you recognise the triggers and how do you manage to prevent them from affecting you?
Can you pass on any hints and tips?
Let me know in the comments below.
Thank you for reading and I will see you next time for more thoughts from across the spectrum.