Sensoryscape (Sensory Landscape)

circle split into six sections on a dark blue background. one section titled 'sensoryscape' is highlighted. this section is split into three parts labelled ‘sensory burden’, ‘sustained and inescapable input’ and ‘uncontrollable environment’

“The environment (of coffee shops) is just too loud. The layering of noises, such as people chatting on top of coffee machines or plates clashing is really difficult.”

focus group participant

The sensory landscape (or sensoryscape) of an environment describes all the different sensory inputs in that space such as the different smells or sounds. Members of our focus groups identified specific inputs that can be challenging (such as the bright lights of supermarkets) and highlighted how processing a space’s sensory information can be overwhelming at times.

They identified that this sensory burden can occur in two main ways:

  • Environments that have multiple layers of different sensory inputs happening at once
  • Environments that have particular intense sensory inputs such as sudden loud noises or very bright lights

People also identified that the sensoryscape of an environment is more difficult if the different sensory inputs are sustained over time and if they are unavoidable. How challenging an environment is can also be affected by how much control an individual has over that environment. For example, is it possible to reduce the volume of the sounds in the space or block them out such as with noise cancelling headphones?

Questions for businesses and organisations to think about:

  • Are you aware of what may be potentially negative stimuli in your environment? Have you discussed it with autistic people in your area to identify what they can find more challenging?
  • Is it possible to reduce some of the more challenging sensory inputs, such as using more autism friendly lightbulbs or having strongly scented products available on request?
  • Is it possible to have times when potentially aversive inputs could be reduced such as by dimming the lighting or removing the background music? Are these times available for people to book and is information about them available on your website?
  • Is it possible for people to make their own accommodations when in your setting? For example, turning down the volume or turning off the voice on a self-checkout or self-scanner?
  • Are people able to make personal accommodations such as wearing ear defenders or sunglasses? Are any of these available to use on request? Are staff aware of these?

For more information on the other themes identified, click on the images or their captions below…

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