An Aspie Kit, or Sensory Kit, is a handbag/backpack/sack filled with various items to help when sensory issues begin to overwhelm you. Near and dear to me, mine travels with me wherever I go, even when shopping near home. Everyone must personalize their kit, filling it with just the right items to bring comfort to their particular sensory sensitivities. Below is a list of what I carry and what you might want to add to yours. Sunglasses – As needed for comfort in brightly lit or windy situations. I use the ones that fit over my prescription glasses and wrap around the sides. I like the way they block out light and dust which leaks through conventional sunglasses.
- Sunscreen – As a bald outdoor photographer traveling in a convertible, it comes in handy.
- Bug Repellent – I never know when those tiny critters will want a piece of me.
- Hand Lotion – I feel better when my skin is flexible. It also creates an invisible layer between me and whatever I touch. Lotion also makes it easier to wash sticky-stuff off my hands.
- Hand Sanitizer – To quickly clean my hands and other objects without water, and it reduces or eliminates stink too.
- Medications – Along with prescription medications, I carry store-bought ones too, just in case. This is especially important when traveling in a foreign country. Brand names and ingredients change in different countries and if I don’t speak the native language, it can be difficult to get what I need.
- Eye Drops – They sooth dry eyes or rinse out dust.
- Snacks – Keep that blood-sugar steady with a little treat.
- Food Allergy Cards – I seldom dine out due to food allergies and dietary restrictions but I carry allergy alert cards with me, just in case. I found it to be critical to offer translated versions in the language of the country I visit. It minimizes miscommunication.
- Smart Phone or tablet – Not only for communication but to entertain and distract.
- Pen, Pencil and Paper – A historically valuable way to record ideas or write notes.
- Autism communication -Pre-printed cards and signs speak for me when I can’t. (Signage is covered in detail in my next blog.) I can also use my tablet as there are plenty of apps that will verbalize writing. I use the free app Speak To Me by OnellDev as it’s super easy to use.
- Ear-buds – I like high quality sound-isolating ear buds which add another sound barrier when listening to my electronic devices.
- Earplugs (2 pairs) – I use soft foam ear plugs. My favorite brand is Hearos as they are the highest rated – 33NRR (Noise Reduction Rating) – that I have ever found. Just like a squirrel with acorns, I stash them in various places so I’m sure to have them near me when necessary.
- Ear Muffs – I use electronic ear muffs. These give me control over environmental noises. I use the variable volume control dial, located on the back of the ear muffs, which control the volume of the microphones on the front of the ear muffs. Those forward-facing microphones allow me to hear the person in front of me while reducing the surrounding sounds. It’s particularly helpful when I am traveling so I can hear others or converse without having to remove the ear muffs. Ear buds or earplugs easily fit underneath the ear cups. (The headphones do have an audio input microphone jack but it doesn’t have the sound quality of good ear buds.) Combining ear muffs with earplugs gives me the maximum sound protection which is extremely helpful when I feel a need to deescalate from over-stimulation or recover from a melt-down. It’s the next best thing to finding a quiet room. As an added bonus, when I travel to cold destinations, they keep my ears warm and prevent earaches from cold wind.
- Noise-canceling Headphones – Isn’t this redundant? Earplugs, ear muffs and noise-canceling headphones? Yep. I’ve learned that each has it’s pros and cons and I switch depending on the situation I’m in. There are several brands available however, the two most expensive ones (Bose and Sony) are the best for reducing or eliminating low frequency sounds like jet engines while allowing higher frequencies, like voices, to be heard pretty well. I wear Sony1000Xm2 primarily for their excellent active noise-canceling with minimal background hiss and great sound quality.
- Batteries – A wise back-up for any device (like electronic ear muffs) that might need them.
- Light Source (Torch/flashlight or head lamp) – Handy in nearly all emergencies including finding that tiny splinter in your finger.
- Fidgets – There are so many kinds available from chewable to stretchy to spinning. My sensory needs vary so I carry a variety with me.
- Mini-Swiss Army knife – Sometimes I need to cut tape or take goo off my shoe, or whatever. Obviously this must be left behind when flying or entering any security-tight attraction.
- Beanie (hat) or bandana – Keeps my noggin warm.
- Gloves – A great way to pacify over-stimulation from tactile sensation.
- Scarf, Mask or soft cloth – Aside from common uses, I use these to breathe through. Not only do these remove particulates from the air but they help diminish many unpleasant scents. I also find it calming to breathe through cloth since it gently slows down my breathing and encourages me to take deeper breaths.
- Favorite Scent or Essential Oil – Whenever I’m around stink, I breathe through scented fabric. It turns into a pleasant experience when I add a drop of my favorite essential oil directly on the cloth, scarf or mask I’m breathing through. If the scent is strong, I’ll apply it first to my hands, then onto the fabric. This works wonders until I can remove myself from the offending smell.
- Water – Staying hydrated is critical for health and general well-being. There are many studies clearing showing the benefits of hydration – from reducing allergies to added vitality.
- Teddy Bear – perhaps the most important and the one that doesn’t require explanation.
Some folks have the ability to “just wing it” – I am not one of those people. I’ve come to affectionately refer to my preparation procedures (heavy research, mental rehearsals and expansive sensory kit inventory) as “Astronaut Thinking” aka “just in case.” Being prepared for potential scenarios reduces anxiety and increases confidence. It is one of the many valuable lessons I’ve learned from my hero, Col. Chris Hadfield, former Commander of the International Space Station.
Bottom Line: no matter where I go or how I get there, my kit stays with me like a cash-filled wallet.