I keep my sensory kit in an “Ethnotek Bagus Bum Bag” worn belly bag style around front. My belly bag is always with me.
Anything I carry around this much can’t be on my back. It must be curated down to the things that are worth their mass and worn below the aching suspension of my pained back. I’m stooped enough. Waist packs worn front hit a sweet spot of retrievability, gravity budgeting, and pain management. I can bear the weight, and when I unzip the compartments, everything therein is first order retrievable.
Foam Ear Plugs
I can’t sleep or endure noisy spaces without ear plugs. I take them everywhere. I’m currently using Wirecutter’s top recommendation, Mack’s Slim Fit Soft Foam Earplugs. The most common complaint we hear with foam ear plugs is that they create too much pressure in the ear canal. These slim fit plugs fix that.
Loop and Vibes Ear Plugs
Foam ear plugs can amplify my tinnitus. Even when they turn up the ringing, I keep them in because I sleep better through tinnitus than ambient sound.
The stems on the Vibes and the loops on the Loop ear plugs serve as handles, making extraction much easier than with foam.
The cases that comes with the Vibes and Loop is large enough to hold both the pair of Vibes/Loop and a pair of foam plugs. They fit easily in the smaller compartment of my belly bag.
Nose-cancelling headphones are also part of my go-everywhere sensory kit. Since they don’t fit in the belly bag, they are usually to be found around my neck. I feel better knowing they’re there.
I use the pricey Apple AirPods Max because they are pink.
Note: noise-cancelling headphones are not for everyone. They can aggravate hyperacusis and misophonia. If you can, try noise-cancellation from different manufacturers to see if one is more compatible with you. I’m fortunate to be compatible with the Sony, Sennheiser, Bose, Anker, and Apple noise-cancellation I’ve tried. They all work for me.
They’re expensive. To get their full benefits, you need an expensive iPhone. I wish this accessibility tech was more affordable, because AirPods make me feel augmented, especially with the arrival of Siri Shortcuts. AirPods provide convenient sensory management and a voice interface to my cognitive net. I leave these in for hours at a time: playing music, setting timers and alarms, creating tasks in Things, and accessing the checklists that order my life. When not in my ears, they stow comfortably in the belly bag in the same pocket as the Vibes snap case (and some other stuff).
I forget I have these hanging from my ears. “Hanging” is the key to comfort. When I first got them, I was “inserting”. Ear burn came on quickly because their hard plastic was pressing against the ridge poking out along the top of my ear canal. Once I let go of the “you gotta push ‘em in there to not lose ‘em” anxiety and started hanging instead of inserting, comfort came.
Two taps to pause. Remove a bud to pause. Instant pairing. Siri Shortcuts. Disability means getting used to bad flow, flow not designed for you, flow not accessible to you. This is good flow that removes some thoughtlessness and frustration from my world.
I once heard a blind person say, “With my cane, my brain, and my trusty iPhone, I can go anywhere.” I agree with the statement completely, but it’s time to update that statement to the 2018 version:
Give me a set of AirPods to go with my iPhone, and I can go anywhere-and surreptitiously know a lot about my environment while doing so.Travelling into the Future: My Brain, my Cane, and my Trusty AirPods | Chelsea cook: Celestial girl
I’m light sensitive, so my go everywhere sensory kit also includes a sleep mask. I like ones with raised eye cups, such as the Wirecutter recommended Nidra Deep Rest. The Deep Rest rolls up compactly and fits comfortably in the large compartment of my belly bag right alongside my sunglasses.
Bluetooth Sleep Mask
Unlike the other parts of my sensory kit, I don’t carry this with me all the time. It’s usually on a bedside table, though I’ll loop it through the belt of my belly bag when I want to keep it with me, such as on a car trip.
I use the mask from Topoint as recommended by Brett Terpstra. The padded nose bridge lifts the mask off the eyes. There’s not as much eyelash clearance as the Nidra Deep Rest, so your lashes might brush the mask when you blink. With eyes closed, I have the clearance I need to be comfortable.
The controls are placed on the left cheek. After laying on my left side for awhile, the pressure is noticeable, though I can still fall asleep.
The controls are certainly not the easiest to use without looking, but I got the hang of it. Since I put the mask on when I’m ready to fall asleep to a favorite playlist or to a white noise generator, I don’t interact with the controls much anyway.
These don’t provide the isolation of an over-ear or ear buds, but they do a good enough job to put me in the sensory space I want to be in.
This mask sleeps hotter than the Nidra Deep Rest.
Sunglasses and Light-reactive Glasses
My bifocals have light-reactive, photochromic lenses that protect my light-sensitive eyes without having to swap into sunglasses whenever I walk outside.
Light-reactive lenses react to UV. Car windows block UV. I always keep a pair of dedicated sunglasses in my belly bag so I can use them when in the car or indoors.
I currently use polarized prescription sunglasses from Warby Parker to supplement my photochromics. Sunglasses make incompatibly lit rooms more hospitable. Wirecutter has recommendations for cheap non-prescription shades.
I always have a hat with me. They are an important part of my sensory management. Beanies are my go to because they’re light, packable, and cover my ears.
Slouchy beanies with an open pattern are my go to for sensory regulation because they allow me to scratch and pick my scalp without taking the beanie off. I can go through the holes, or I can get my hand up under the hat since it’s slouchy. I get my slouchy beanies at Purple Sage Designz.
I love scratching my head. Love, love, love. The feel from both head and hand is satisfying, comforting, and necessary. Life is more bearable with the pressure of fingernail on scalp. Life is better when I can scratch, pick, peel, and pull.The Self-injurious Stims that I Love
When I want more warmth or a tighter fit, I like Smartwool’s beanies. I use these as liners beneath a slouchy beanie.
My lightest weight beanie is a Smartwool PhD Ultra Light. It stuffs down small enough to keep in my belly bag at all times. This hat can actually cool me down when out in the sun. It blocks some rays while wicking sweat. Sometimes, I put it on and immediately feel that evaporative cooling sensation.
It doesn’t go down over the ears as much as I’d like, though. I find myself trying to tug it down.
My go to beanie is the Smartwool PhD Light. It has the full ear coverage I like. It’s notably heavier than the Ultra Light since it is two layers instead of one, but it still packs down small enough to fit in the belly bag.
Smartwool’s The Lid comes out when I need a little more warmth. It’s too big to pack into the belly bag, so I loop it through the belt of the bag.
I like the fit and scalp pressure of Smartwool’s beanies.
Beads are stimmy goodness. We make stim jewelry from beads and beading wire. I keep a stim loop attached to the belly bag. I put a finger’s width of slack in the wire of the loop so that I can spin and slide the beads. It can be used one-handed while attached to the bag or can be removed for two-handed play.
Happy Hands sells a variety of stim toys.
Here are some of our favorite stimmy things available on Amazon. I keep a rotating selection of 1 or 2 in my belly bag.