Occupational therapist advocates for sensory friendly vaccination clinics in N.B.
An occupational therapist in Saint John, N.B. is advocating for COVID-19 vaccination clinics to be more sensory friendly.
Christel Seeberger has been working in health care for the last 25 years. As the founder of Sensory Friendly Solutions, she is working to help organizations and businesses in the province find ways to support people with sensory issues.
Seeberger says people who are susceptible to experiencing sensory overload may face additional challenges during the pandemic, including getting vaccinated.
“Getting vaccines is something that can be anxiety-provoking for many people. There’s a little bit of the unexpected and anxiety with the unknown,” she said.
Seeberger says the lack of accommodations at COVID-19 vaccine clinics in New Brunswick could be a barrier for those with autism, PTSD, and other sensitivities.
“The sensory experience is heightened going to get vaccines and becoming sensory-friendly really helps decrease that sensory overload and experience," said Seeberger.
These barriers are all too familiar to Trish Hamilton from Saint John whose 8-year-old son, Emerson, has autism and a sensory processing disorder.
“I'm no expert on sensory processing disorder or autism but I'm definitely an expert on my son. For him, it's about preparation. And I really think the majority of the heavy lifting is going to be left to the parent," said Hamilton.
Hamilton said the more parents can prepare their children for new experiences, the more comfortable they may feel.
“I would say the next most important thing from preparing children, is patience,” she said.
Once her son is eligible to get vaccinated, Hamilton would like to see a location in New Brunswick that can provide a comfortable environment for Emerson.
"Having a space where the parents are sort of working collaboratively with the clinic, would be the best-case scenario,” she said. “Anything that would touch your senses will touch their senses but by ten-fold.”
According to Seeberger, some things that can help accommodate those with sensory sensitivities include reducing large crowds, dimming harsh lighting, and limiting the level of noise.
At this time, Seeberger says there are no sensory-friendly COVID-19 vaccination clinics in the province. However, she’s hoping with more awareness, that will change soon.
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