Date of Award
Master of Arts (Research)
Applied Social Studies
Dr Joe Moynihan
Sensory overload is a complex sensory processing disorder which can develop post Acquired Brain Injury (ABI). The condition can be extremely debilitating and people who develop it are further hampered by lack of informational resources, sensory overload is currently under researched in the Acquired Brain Injury rehabilitation sector. This qualitative study documents participants first hand experiences of sensory overload post ABI and includes insights and observations from professionals working in the Acquired Brain Injury rehabilitation sector in Ireland. In this study, sensory overload is the focal point and a new rehabilitation tool in the form of a sensory menu is introduced. The literature review details Acquired Brain Injury and sensory overload individually, and then explains the strong linkages between them. It covers theoretical background, sensory triggers, and the current research regarding the importance of sensory informed spaces. Ten participants took part in the study. The researcher used semi structured interviews as the main data collection method, an overview of all data collection methods including the rationale behind each method is explained. The results and discussion chapter is split up to examine three robust themes that emerged in detail: life altering consequences and loss, sensory overload triggers, education and the rehabilitation environment. The researcher discovered that sensory overload is having a profound impact on people’s lives. The participants careers, hobbies and social outlets have all been lost or significantly altered. In addition to having to adapt to common triggers post Acquired Brain Injury, participants reported experiencing a new, uniquely triggering relationship with sensory information. In reference to sensory overload, the participants talked about it being a hidden consequence of Acquired Brain Injury that they find difficult to explain, and people who have never experienced it have great difficulty understanding. All professional participants acknowledged how overlooked sensory needs currently are in ABI rehabilitation environments. Sensory informed education can be the catalyst to creating sensory informed spaces and building awareness within families, friendships and communities about sensory overload and the challenges it presents. In response to these findings, the researcher recommends that sensory menus are developed into standard practice in ABI rehabilitation services. The sensory menu is an innovative tool that has the potential to strengthen the arsenal of health care practitioners and professionals working in the ABI rehabilitation sector. Critically, the research findings provide a solid tangible reference for people with sensory overload, who reported experiencing a new and sudden, intensely challenging, relationship with sensory information post ABI. The rehabilitation environment can become a malleable tool that clearly represents and responds to each person’s sensory needs and preferences post Acquired Brain Injury. Moreover, it is envisaged that the research findings will not only inform how sensory menus can be utilised in ABI rehabilitation but how they can be developed over time into sensory portfolios and incorporated into other rehabilitative environments to enhance service provision.
Cotter, Jennifer, "Tailoring the rehabilitative environment for people with sensory overload" (2022). Theses [online].
Available at: https://sword.cit.ie/allthe/549
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