Why are safe spaces important?

There is a lot going on around us and places can be overwhelming some factors the might create this are: 

Lighting – too bright, too dark, flashing lights and different colours.

Sound – different sounds, volumes and tones 

Space – too little space, with too many people; or too much space and too few people around.

Touch – the feeling of different types of materials; the fit of clothing; the touch of other people; the texture of different foods.  

Smells – other people’s perfume, cleaning supplies, the smell of certain types of food.  

Text and images – the amount of text and/or images on the page of a book, on a wall or board might be overwhelming. Different colours, types of font, print sizes and images can be confusing and cause distress.

Blue character is sitting on the floor holding his head and crying. Above their head, lights are shining and a speaker is blaring music notes out.

Safe spaces

People may be overwhelmed by some or all of the issues above and this might cause a change in behaviour. A sensory safe space gives people the chance to self-regulate, to do what they need to feel better. 

This might include stimming, which is usually a repetitive action that helps someone block out the outside world. Stimming can be anything but common examples are rocking backwards and forwards or side to side, repeating a phrase over and over, or flapping hands. It might include playing with a fidget toy, something to distract the hands and mind. It might be closing eyes and doing breathing exercises. It might be listening to music, reading a story or doing an art project. They might need to talk things through, or just sit quietly.

A blue character sits in a darkened space. There is the sign of a speaker with a line through it, indicating quiet. The character has their eyes closed and hands up to their head, trying to block out the world.

Remember – Let your student choose how they calm down, what activity they need to do. Choosing for them can lead to greater distress. For example, some people find sitting quietly can be overwhelming, as they are overloaded by their own thoughts. Instead, they might need some form of noise in the background, such as music or white noise.

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