Have you ever experienced sensory overload? Well, if you haven’t heard about it, your answer would probably be “no,” but after reading this article, you may change your perspective. The fact is that most of us have experienced sensory overload at some level at least once in our lifetime, although it is particularly associated with certain conditions like the autism spectrum disorders.
What is Sensory overload?
Sensory overload occurs when something around us stimulates at least one of our senses in an extreme way, making us feel highly uncomfortable. Have you’ve ever been to a party where the music is too high? Or a classroom where everyone is making too much noise? Sometimes in situations like those, we cannot help feeling deeply overwhelmed, the situation is just more than we can take, and we just want to get out of there and go to some place quite. That’s what sensory overload feels like.
Generally, it’s easy to escape the discomfort; if a smell is what’s bothering us we may walk away, if too many people are talking at the seam time we can use headphones or leave the room, but the fact is, when it comes about kids, especially kids with ASD, it’s not that simple to get away from these situations, because things that are part of our daily life can be the ones that make kids with ASD feel sensory overloaded.
In what situation can a sensory overload happen?
It is important to know that sensory overload triggers are not always the same for everyone, it depends on each person, but regardless, there are some common triggers when it comes to children with ASD and pretty much kids in general:
Rooms full of noises are a common factor that can trigger a sensory overload episode.It doesn’t necessarily have to be lound noises: certain people’s voices, the ringing bells of a church, the noise of the cutlery against the dishes on a restaurant, or even the unusual echo of a public bathroom can make a kid feel overwhelmed.
Bright lights can be more than annoying for kids; city lights or cars headlights are often usually a nuisance that depending on the sensitivity of the child, can be a strong trigger.
Unfamiliar surroundings and strangers
We should always keep in mind that sensory overload is linked with anxiety, unknown places tend to be a reason for kids with ASD to worry, also, these kids tend to feel intimidated by people that they haven’t meet before, even when they are been polite and kind.
Sometimes the things that can disturb them to the point that they feel sensory overload are not easy to perceive, therefore, we need to pay special attention to the way they react to particular surroundings and situations.
How can we help?
Talk to them: Pay attention to their usual triggers, once you’ve known them, let the kid know that you are aware of it, and you will be there to help them anytime they feel overwhelmed. For example: if you have realized that your kid doesn’t feel right on crowded places, make sure to tell him there’s no problem with going to a quiet place. Plus, the communication will create increase the bond of trust between the kid and you, and he will be more likely to try to let you know when he feels uncomfortable.
It’s important to be prepared: Kids with ASD doesn’t tend to enjoy unusual spontaneous activities, so try to avoid them every time you can, instead, make sure to have a plan and share it with the kid, that way he’ll be prepared for the upcoming event. For example, if you’re taking him to a store, let him know hours before, that way he can prepare himself for it, this way, you reduce the probability of a sensory overload episode.
It’s true that it can be hard to fully understand, and there are times where an image can say more than words, therefore, we are going to leave four links that will guide you to different videos, where each video will help you get a clearer idea of how sensory overload feels like.
Sensory Overload Simulation – What is it like to be extremely sensitive in daily situations?
Can you make it to the end?
Autism and sensory sensitivity
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