What Sensory Overload Feels Like

by Guy Shahar

Published: 22nd April, 2016

This very short (85 seconds) and powerful film put together by the National Autistic Society gives us an idea of what an autistic person feels like in everyday situations that we take for granted.

You can imagine what it takes out of someone simply to manage to cope with daily life while being continually bombarded by such unrelenting stimuli at every moment.  This is what everyday life entails for many autistic people.

When we maintain an awareness of their experiences, perhaps we can understand their behaviour a little better and contain them a little more warmly and reassuringly when they clearly need it.  We can be less demanding of them to simply “fit in”, and can do more to structure their lives so that they have long periods of respite from such experiences wherever possible.

It is easy to define and judge people by their behaviour, but this film should give a much better appreciation of why this sort of behaviour takes place, and of the fact that there is a real person concealed beneath it.   After all, how would we present ourselves to the world if our senses were continually assailed in this way.  Others would only see our coping mechanisms and have no sense whatsoever of the person we are.   Let us be more open.   Let us be more ready to search beneath the embattled exterior to find the true essence that lies inside each autistic person.

If we show them we understand and we care, this can go a long way in helping them to feel safer in the midst of such chaos.

And through this, in our experience, it has been possible over time to lessen the impact of such sensory difficulties and to enable the autistic child to cope much better with their environment; restoring their hope and facilitating the re-emergence of their true character.

This is the subject of my book, Transforming Autism, and will be the subject of many future posts on this blog.

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