Children on the spectrum can find certain activities or being in certain places hard. Inclusivity is so important to us and we want every child to have the best experience possible at Moreton KidsFest. To make sure every child has this opportunity we have created a designated Quiet Zone
We spoke to Mandy Alborn, Educational Mentor from Sesame Lane about the struggles children on the spectrum face at the events and Nicole from Early Start Australia who will be bringing Darcy the therapy dog to our KidsFest Quiet Zone.
The purpose of the Quiet Zone at KidsFest, is to accommodate children who struggle with sensory overload. Sometimes you just need a quiet space to escape and unwind, this zone provides that safe space.
Working in collaboration with Early Start Australia and their therapy dog Darcy, there will be a number of strategies and supports provided to help calm children who aren’t coping with the crowds and activities.
The Quiet Zone is designed to benefit kids who struggle with sensory overload such as Autism. It also provides a supportive space for parents who are seeking information on support and services for their children.
Children on the spectrum may have ‘sensory integration difficulties’ and this can result in ‘over-reacting’ to sensory input by becoming distressed. Kids may show signs of distress in many different ways, such as fidgeting, crying, trying to hide, or covering their ears against noise. Others will withdraw or shutdown completely. Events, by their very nature, are busy, with lots of people and unusual noises being created. Having a designated space within events, that provides a safe haven from this extremely stimulating environment, may help a child not become so overwhelmed by the sensory input.
How we see, hear, taste, touch and smell things in our environment can be interpreted very differently by a child on the spectrum. Children on the spectrum may find social interactions difficult and busy places and events are full of people, making the social interaction difficulties overwhelming. Actions such as activity participation with others, being in a loud or busy environment and not being able to do an activity when they want can all be struggles children on the spectrum face at events.
Through facilitating participation and inclusion at our community events, we are embracing and celebrating neurodiversity. All are welcome! Having ‘quiet zones’ that also can provide informative information as to their purpose will support a greater understanding of children on the spectrum and the struggles that they and their families face at these events.
Outside of events, by simply being aware there are people around us whose brains are wired differently, educating yourself on the vastly differing characteristics of spectrum disorders and what triggers are associated, recognising when something is a trigger and knowing how to best handle the situation are all great ways to help understand the struggles children on the spectrum face.
Being an understanding and inclusive community benefits not only the children on the spectrum and their families, but all of the people living within the community. Awareness and education develops compassion and tolerance. This awareness helps us all as a community to uphold the United Nations rights of the child and in particular, article 23 in which it states: children who have any kind of disability should receive special care and support so that they can live a full and independent life.
A child on the spectrum may show difficulties in the following areas:
Calming activities can be used for those children who are too alert (who over-react to stimulation) and need help to settle their nervous systems. Useful activities may include rhythmical linear movement such as with swinging. Children can benefit from activities that provide deep pressure such as being wrapped firmly in a towel or rug, having them squeeze into a small space, curling up under an A-frame with a blanket draped over it or crawling into a large cardboard box. Dimmed light can also help. It’s always best to check with the child’s parent or caregiver as they are most likely to know what works best.