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Autistic Life Hacks: Sensory Edition

Different or atypical sensory experiences are common amongst autistic people - we can be hyper and/or hypo sensitive to different stimuli. We can become overwhelmed by too much sensory input, or if we don’t have enough we can feel sluggish and lethargic or find it difficult to focus. Sensory regulation strategies, also known as a ‘sensory diet’, can help us feel balanced.

As autistic parents, we have less control over our sensory environment and we must balance our own needs with our children’s. Here are some life hacks and top tips for sensory regulation for autistic parents, contributed by our members. They’re sorted by price, starting with things that cost nothing. Hopefully, you will pick up some new ideas - or maybe you do some of these already?


  • Eating/sucking ice cubes

  • Housework - heavy work - mopping floors, vacuuming etc.

  • Make yourself into a blanket burrito using a duvet

  • Bath or shower to give sensory pressure

  • Time in nature (go for a walk or bike ride)

  • Save images on your phone or set up a Pinterest account and create boards of soothing/stimmy images

  • Lie down in the dark

  • Create a playlist of your favourite music on your favourite streaming service - this could be relaxing chillout music or heavy drum beats to get you moving depending on your mood

  • Sitting in the car by yourself, if you have one

  • Big squashy hugs and cuddles

  • Sniffing favourite comfort smells e.g. herbal tea, body lotion, fresh flowers - whatever you have available

  • Sorting buttons/Lego/art materials etc., using items you already have

  • Standing barefoot on grass

  • Existing household items may be repurposed as sensory toys e.g. soft makeup brushes, silicon scourers, fabric scraps or ribbons

  • If you’re taking your kids to the park, take advantage of the situation to ride on the roundabout or swings

  • Turn the music up LOUD!

  • YouTube - white/brown/pink noise, nature sounds, alpha wave music, ASMR, paint mixing etc.

  • Watching nature documentaries, Studio Ghibli films, arthouse cinema etc.

  • Spinning on a spinny office chair, if you have one

Under £10

  • Spiky/acupressure ring

  • Chewing gum

  • Sour sweets or mints

  • Ice lollies

  • Aromatherapy roller ball

  • Fidget toys

  • Spiral hair ties

  • Soft lighting e.g. candles or fairy lights

  • Foam travel earplugs

  • Blu tack or playdough

  • Soft fluffy socks

  • Same-food or Spicy/acidic/sweet food

Under £50

  • Acupressure mat - the modern equivalent of a bed of nails. This may sound like a torture device but it gives strong sensory feedback that can be very regulating.

  • Flare/Loop noise-reducing earbuds

  • Exercise ball to bounce on

  • Aromatherapy: plug-diffuser for the room, or wearable oil diffuser bracelet

  • Jewellery: chewy jewellery (chewelry) and fidget rings

  • Light projector or colour-changing light bulb

  • Knitting or crocheting are great ways to stim in public - you don’t have to actually make anything, you could just knit and unknit the same ball of yarn on repeat

  • Ear defenders

  • Soft blankets, or wearable blankets

  • Storage baskets around the house to dump stuff in to reduce visual clutter (great for kids’ toys etc.)

  • Blackout blinds or curtains

  • Comfy clothing - when you find something you love, buy multiples of it

  • Beanbags

  • Unlimited data mobile phone plan so you can access your music/videos/games wherever you are

  • Eye mask or weighted eye mask

  • Body socks

  • Stretchy compression blankets/sheets

  • Hot water bottle or microwavable teddy

Over £50

  • noise cancelling headphones or earbuds to block out noise

  • Bone-conducting headphones so you can listen to music/podcasts/audiobooks but still be able to hear your children

  • Weighted blanket

As a parent, it’s important to ensure your own sensory needs are met, so that you can stay well-regulated. This should make it easier to cope with the demands of parenting and meet your children’s needs.

What are your favourite sensory strategies? Leave a comment below and let us know.

Also see: Babies – Solving the Sensory Challenges for suggestions on how to make your sensory experience of parenting a baby easier.

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