Techniques to deal with sensory processing sensitivity in adults

In a previous blog we discussed the issues surrounding sensory processing disorder. Due to the fact that every person is differently affected by SPD, it is important to receive occupational therapy with a sensory approach to tailor the session to your individual needs.  The occupational therapist can work with you to find different calming techniques that can be used when over-stimulated or stimulating activities when your brain is craving sensation.  They may even develop a “sensory diet,” which is when you schedule certain sensory activities throughout the day to help regulate your central nervous system. We thought we would also share with you a few ideas of ways that you can handle sensory processing issues in your daily life.


  • Use a different flavor of toothpaste (mint, cinnamon and peppermint are strong scents).
  • Try cutting, smashing, boiling or pureeing small fruits (like blueberries or grapes) if you don’t like the bursting sensation in your mouth
  • If you are very sensitive to smell you may want to consider using unscented deodorant such as Arm & Hammer Essentials Natural Deodorant.
  • If you can only tolerate smooth foods (ie. yogurt and pudding) then try mixing in protein powder to get more than just calcium from the serving.
  • Compressions can be very relaxing to some people.  If you have someone that you trust and know well – ask for a hug.  Other people find massages helpful.  For those of you that have seen, Temple Grandins movie, you will be familiar with the concept of a squeeze machine. Its essentially a machine that gives a calming effect that simulates the effect of a hug for those that are sensitive to the touch of others. Fully built Squeeze Machines are available on Amazon but you can also build your own. There are directions on how to make your own “hug machine” at
  • Buy clothes without tags or tape the tags down using a 1.5 inches wide masking tape or athletic tape.
  • Try seamless socks. Seamless  Socks
  • If you are incredibly sensitive to sound, you may want to consider Noise Reduction Headphones or Ear Plugs when sounds become overwhelming.
  • Consider wearing sunglasses inside if florescent lighting is too bright for your eyes
  • Try different kinds of sheets.  Many people like the texture of Jersey sheets compared to cotton.
  • In order to make brushing your hair less painful, consider wetting your hair before your brush it.  Fill a spray bottle with water and a small squirt of conditioner. Shake.  Then spray the hair to help break up knots. Amazon has a good spray bottle for hair for a few dollars. Also, you might want to consider using a special brush such as the Knot Genie which is specifically made to help break apart knots in hair by its design of different length of bristles.  Just beware that the tips of the bristles don’t have rubber balls on them, so don’t press against the scalp too firmly.
  • Stress Balls can be kept in your pocket and help during stressful situations.
  • If the sensation of showers is bothersome, then take a bath.  In order to eliminate the drastic change in temperature when exiting the tub, use a small space heater to warm the bathroom.

So we would be curious to know if you have any ingenious ways of dealing with sensory processing issues in your life. Leave us a comment below and let us know what you think.


Mark Blakey

Mark Blakey is the founder of the Aspergers Test Site, after a successful career working in IT Mark wanted to share what he learned from his own diagnosis. He is the author of "Emotional Mastery for Adults with Aspergers" and "An Introduction to Aspergers Syndrome". Having received lots of questions from parents with autistic children, Mark went on to found Autism Parenting Magazine. The magazine has become an essential resource aimed at improving the quality of life for families effected by Autism. Its a monthly publication containing lots of helpful articles to help develop social skills, manage challenging behavior and improve communication.

  • Jess says:

    Hi, thanks for this helpful e mail! I was just wondering whether anyone has heard any success stories in relation to auditory intergration systems, as our occupational therapist has recommended the listening programme for my four year old son with ASD, but it’s really pricey so I’m trying to find out more and would be really grateful for any advice, thanks.


  • Jacki Wilson says:

    These are great suggestions. I have a biggie. I am over 50 and at a point where I need moisturizer on my skin. My problem is that I can’t stand to have it on my hands. So I am not helping myself at all. 🙁
    Any suggestions?

    • Wendy says:

      We used the listening program for our daughter. The CDs were about $35 a piece, but we noticed a great improvement. I would recommend the investment! Especially early on, when you can deal with issues sooner than later.

    • Wendy says:

      For moisturizing, have you tried putting the moisturizer on a sponge for other body parts? And for your hands, maybe using moisturizing gloves that contain moisturizer in them? You could try something like these

    • stephs says:

      Dry oil moisturising spray, spray on and leave. Might need a bit of rubbing in but feels nothing like moisturising creams.

    • lucy bobb says:

      have you tried a small amount of baby oil or olive oil in your bath water?

    • Debbie says:

      I feel the same way about lotion on the palms of my hands. So after I rub in the lotion I wipe my palms across a damp wash rag. It leaves just enough to work. I like the AVEENO Skin Relief with the blue band on the front and under pump.

    • Dee says:

      If you step up your Vitamin C intake, sustained release tablets work best, and take Omega 3 oil supplements, your skin will not be as dry.I’m 55 and find this works well.If in doubt ask a good pharmacist if there is any problem with these and any medication you may have.Increase the Vitamin C step by step for a few days at a time until the problem resolves and then keep at that level. A good multivitamin and mineral is a good idea too, take with main meal.

    • Matt says:

      Try the new in shower moisturiser. As long as your happy showering. You use it just like shower gel and wash off after!

  • Rosie says:

    I find a lot of my problems are due to drinking or eating cow milk products. If I eat a lot of fruit and stay right away from dairy then I can stay calm and peaceful but even a tablespoon of cheese at lunchtime is enough to keep me awake many hours at night. Mahatma Gandhi the great Indian peace activist was a famous food experimenter and he said in order to practice complete non-violence, even under provocation he had to eat “pure veg” diet. He said that if he even added milk to his diet he was not able to stay serene and calm in his mind. I have found the same.

  • Nick says:

    Use dimmer switches on all your house lights. These will let you turn down the brightness of the lights to the most comfortable level.

  • Tracy says:

    I’m not familiar with the Listening CD’s. Can anyone explain their use and where to purchase them?

    • Teresa says:

      Dr. Jeffery Thompson has some CDs that I really enjoy. If they are out of reach financially check amazon for used ones. I own about eight and play them to calm my mind for sleep or quiet times. I have gotten rid of the television because I find it to be too intense and the violence too disturbing.

  • Alison Beaumont says:

    Please could anyone tell me if they have the experience of needing heat ie; hotwaterbottle at very high temperature as a means to calm down? Even in the summer? I find this soothing and even crave the comfort when stressed.

    • Teresa says:

      I have a pillow designed to be put into the microwave in order to heat it up. I think it has buckwheat inside. The weight of it really nice too. I don’t use it in the summer so much but I really don’t like air conditioners. I avoid them and always carry a long sleeve shirt or jacket in case I go to a place that is too cold. My home air conditioner only get turned on if the temperature is above 90 and the humidity is high.

    • Kit Lorraine Saunders says:

      I relate completely. I’ve always found hot-water bottles soothing. I also have a broken thyroid, so I need the heat in any case, but the bottle serves as a comfort in addition to warmth.

      I find the cold causes me to completely tense up and thus causes me pain.

  • Eva says:

    There is something between bathing and taking a shower which I like a lot, especially on hot days, it is the Oriental bathing method: Put a large bowl and a small pot with a handle into to tub or on the shower floor and a small plastic stool to sit on, then fill the bowl with conviently warm or hot water, apply a shower gel all over your body, then pour the water over yourself by means of the handle pot. A very pleasant method which helps cooling down if you need that and the water gently strokes your skin.

  • Womandrogyne says:

    It’s taken me until very recently to realise there’s a reason why I spent so much time looking through coloured glass as a kid – I find rich colours, and especially coloured light, very soothing. I’ve just bought myself a set of LED xmas tree lights in RBGY, and it’s incredibly soothing having these pinpoints of rich colour in my bedroom at night. Way better than any nightlight. Cost me £15, and costs virtually nothing to run, and makes me feel held, in a benign way. (Now if only they included purple…)

  • Kit Lorraine Saunders says:

    Another help for those with trouble brushing hair: Start from the ends. I don’t mean back-combing, I mean brush from near the ends to the ends, then go a bit further up and stroke down again, gradually working your way up the strands. Loads of people will start brushing or combing their hair by inserting the comb or brush right near the roots and trying to run it down the whole lot at once. This catches all the tangles, pushes them together, and makes them into bigger, nastier knots.

    My method means you get the tangles at the ends and get rid of them then work through others a bit at a time. It’s a little more time-consuming perhaps, but it saves a lot of pain and grief and it’s much better for your hair. I comb my conditioner through my hair in the shower using the same method as well and between these two things, I seldom have much grief with tangles.

  • Melanie says:

    is there any solution for someone with very dry itchy skin? the sensation of soaps, oils and creams are too much to bear. how to stay moisturizer?

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