Sensory Overload (or Sensory Processing Disorder) affects AT LEAST 3/4 of person’s with Autism and is one of THE most critical elements to understand about the disorder. Every day, our bodies are bombarded with MILLIONS of sensations. Our brains have to efficiently process all of that information….organize and interpret it….to be able to respond and behave adaptively. What we get used to in our environment…..sights, sounds, smells, etc……they just can’t separate, process, accept, or dismiss. Overwhelm comes over their bodies when trying to react properly. It is physically painful. And causes meltdown or shutdown. In addition, you are either hypo or hyper sensitive to these stimuli. (For example: One might seek out touch by throwing his body into walls, furniture, etc. and another dislikes touch so much that they cannot handle even the idea of receiving a hug). There is a lot of variety especially when you remember that this is a spectrum disorder. Here is a video that helps one to understand what it’s like to enter a mall when you have SPD. Don’t turn down your volume! Experience it as they do! It will change the way you view those going through this in public.
And one more simulation…..
One final example……
Excerpt from Ten Things Every Child With Autism Wishes You Knew by Ellen Notbohm:
“Here’s why a simple trip to the grocery store may be agonizing for me.
My hearing may be hyperacute. Dozens of people jabber at once. The loudspeaker booms today’s special. Music blares from the sound system. Registers beep and cough, a coffee grinder chugs. The meat cutter screeches, babies wail, carts creak, the fluorescent lighting hums. My brain can’t filter all the input and I’m in overload!
My sense of smell may be highly sensitive. The fish at the meat counter isn’t quite fresh, the guy standing next to us hasn’t showered today, the deli is handing out sausage samples, the baby in line ahead of us has a poopy diaper, they’re mopping up pickles on aisle three with ammonia. I feel like throwing up.
And there’s so much hitting my eyes! The fluorescent light is not only too bright, it flickers. The space seems to be moving; the pulsating light bounces off everything and distorts what I am seeing. There are too many items for me to be able to focus (my brain may compensate with tunnel vision), swirling fans on the ceiling, so many bodies in constant motion. All this affects how I feel just standing there, and now I can’t even tell where my body is in space.”
I pray these examples change the way you react or treat individuals with sensory issues going forward. Be kind. Be compassionate and empathetic. Be the CHANGE.