Saturday 20 April 2024

Sensory Overload.


Sensory overload.

Many people, including neurotypical individuals, struggle with sensory overload. Some individuals can tolerate this sensory overload. They will develop strategies to help them tolerate these sensory overload.

Autism and sensory processing difficulties often go hand in hand.

We're often told, "oh yes the lights are quite bright, I'll turn them down/off."

But sensory overload is not just bright lights. If an environment is too busy - lots of people or even lots of information/colours/posters/decorations on walls/ceiling and so on, this can cause sensory overload. Big smells from food and drinks. The texture of clothing or other items. There are many sensory inputs that can cause sensory overload.

For those individuals who have sensory processing difficulties, turning the lights off, turning music down, isn't the solution.

What does sensory processing difficulties feel like? It differs from individual to individual. O has always been, and still is, very articulate in describing how she feels. L is now much the same.

O .... "If your skin feels like it is crawling when you hear someone crunching on ice cubes, you might be able to imagine how sensory overload feels. But now add in that the constant continuing overwhelming sensory input that makes your skin feel like it is literally crawling and itching all the time. Your brain hurts like you have a migraine, to the point that you feel like your head is going to explode. Sounds feel like they're echoing around your head with a constant ringing in your ears. And nothing you do, can ease these sensations. The sensory overload may cause your brain to shut down, and cause the flight fight freeze response to take over. Once these feelings take hold, there is nothing you can do except escape from that environment. And it's not just sounds that cause sensory overload. Bright lights, clothing textures, places that are busy with people. Any sensory input collides with every other sensory input causing a tsunami of sensory overload."

I always thought that I was being overly dramatic with sensory inputs. I'd tell myself that I was fine and had to tolerate the sensory inputs. Now I know that I'm not being dramatic. I have sensory processing difficulties and I allow myself to react and respond to the overload.

So next time an Autistic individual tells you that they feel like they are becoming overwhelmed by the sensory input, ask, what you can do to help them.