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Understanding Autism, OCD and ADHD - Advice for Parents & Carers

Hypersensitivity: Handling Noise & Crowds

22 August 2023

This article, written by Leanne Bennett, Assistant Psychologist for our Group, explores sensory integration support for children and young people as they navigate events and activities both at home and in public spaces.

We experience our world through the information we receive in a constant stream from our senses. Our brain filters and organises this information so that we are only consciously aware of a fraction of it. Children with sensory sensitivities do not integrate this information in the same way, which can cause them to struggle to tolerate noise and crowds, making it difficult to adapt to new environments and experiences.

Here are some top tips and strategies to support sensory integration in your child, both at home and in public areas.

Sensory breaks

Notice spaces that your child is drawn to or avoids to see where they feel most comfortable and create calm spaces for them to retreat to. Consider sounds, colours, surfaces and textures that fill these spaces.

Plan regular sensory breaks to help your child escape any sensory overload and stay regulated.

Use calming sounds

Calming sounds, such as white noise, rain sounds, or calming music, could help regulate a sensory-sensitive child. This can also be useful for settling them ready for bed.

Sensory tools

Provide sensory toys and activities your child enjoys and engages with, such as making slime, musical instruments, painting, water beads and mud kitchens.

Provide your child with ear defenders or noise-cancelling headphones so that your child can control what sounds they listen to and the amount of sound they take in.

When going to events, make sure to pack any sensory tools your child may need, ear defenders, fidget and comfort toys. Doing this with your child may give them a sense of autonomy and empowerment.

Keep noises controlled

Reduce background noises where possible, giving warning of any imminent noise, such as the hoover or blender, trains or busy shops, and try to make sure that one person is speaking to the child at any one time.

Preparing your child for events

Visit the location before the event, taking note of the busiest times and quieter spaces available. Think about potential triggers, safe spaces you could go to if your child becomes overwhelmed, the likely number of people and potential noises they may encounter.

Talk to your child about the event, how busy it is likely to be, and the sounds they may experience, taking time to answer any questions or concerns giving them time to process this information. Consider creating a social story (see resources section below).


Reflect on the event after it has taken place. Discuss how your child felt during the event, what went well, and what could have been done differently.

Try to celebrate the small wins throughout the day and reflect on them when you return home. Your child worked hard today. Let’s make sure they get the credit they deserve for their efforts.

Advice & Support For Navigating Celebrations

For more useful resources like this, download our Celebrations Support Pack

Download Celebrations Support Pack


Allen, S., Knott, F. J., Branson, A., & Lane, S. J. (2021). Coaching Parent of Children with Sensory Integration Difficulties: A Scoping Review. Occupational Therapy International, 2021, 1-11.

Cumbria County Council. (n.d.). Supporting Children with Sensory Processing Needs in Early Years. (n.d.). Sensory Processing Tips and Strategies.

Hunter. A. (2020). Sensory Processing and Self-Regulation. Catcote Academy.

National Autistic Society. (n.d.). Ten Simple Sensory Strategies for Autistic Children.


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