Avoiding Sensory Overload at the Convention
by Kyndra Steinmann
As you are no doubt aware, the HEAV Virginia Homeschool Convention is coming up in just a few short weeks and I wanted to share with you some of the ways I prepare myself and the children to handle all of the wonderful and encouraging–and somewhat overwhelming–stimulation! The two older ones and I all struggle with staying relatively calm when there is a lot of fun noise and visual input, and over the years I (we) have learned a few ways to help.
Sensory Overload Protection Plan
I make a very careful plan ahead of time. What vendors I’m going to visit and for which materials, where those vendors are located in the vendor hall, and how long I’m going to spend in the vendor hall before taking a sensory break. I print out a copy of the map of the hall as soon as it’s available and mark it with highlighters, then mark my list of curriculum needs the same way so I can easily go where I need to without feeling panicky.
I spend time on vendor websites where they are available so that I have a good visual of book covers in my mind to make it easier to pick out what I’m looking for and reduce the visual stimulation. I plan sensory breaks into my days at convention; I spend an hour in the vendor hall, find a quiet spot to check my lists, spend some time volunteering, drink a Mountain Dew–the caffeine and sugar really help me–and eat something with protein–lest I get a blood sugar crash from the Mountain Dew–then go back into the exhibit hall for an hour. Then I’ll come out, go to a workshop, find a quiet spot, do some volunteering, go do some more shopping, and so on.
This may sound strange but volunteering at the convention really helps keep me from being overstimulated. Somehow, focusing on other people’s questions and offering encouragement–I usually volunteer at the HEAV tables and the special-needs counseling table, both in the lobby–helps me to remain calm and focused.
Another place where I make sure that I know what I’m looking for. I also try to check the database ahead of time to see if what I’m looking for is actually at the UCS, as I can easily scan right over something when I’m looking at a table full of books!
Buggle and Mouse both react strongly to the noise and stimulation of being in a crowd of children, but I feel like they need to learn how to handle crowds and they enjoy the children’s program and talk about it all year. I do try to provide some help along the way. Mouse is soothed by chewing on things; a fact I discovered at last year’s convention where in the course of the morning she chewed up her hairband, her name badge, and the buttons on the front of her dress! This year I will send her with a necklace of chewable beads, and let the volunteers know that she is allowed to chew on them!
Buggle does fine during the event but will need some time to unwind when we are done. We’ll find a quiet corner during the lunch break and I’ll either give him some Silly Putty to play with or hand him a book to read, as he is quite good at shutting out the rest of the world with a book.
When we get home in the evening, we will go for a walk or do something else that is strenuous and will enable him to shake the rest of his reaction to crowded situations off.
Together we will enjoy the convention and, by grace, we will prepare ourselves to handle the ways that we react to the people who make the convention what it is. After all, where else could we go and be encouraged to keep working, learning, and growing by so many people who are walking a similar road?
Kyndra Steinmann blogs at Sticks, Stones and Chicken Bones about living in a house full of young children, special needs, discipling hearts, and abundant grace! As a homeschool graduate, she has an especial burden to encourage mothers to know and enjoy their children. Follow her on Facebook and Pinterest.