What Is a Sensory Overload?

Editor’s Note: This perspective on sensory overload and autism is from a Supportive Living Services client.

Sensory OverloadSensory overload is something that’s really important if you have someone with autism. I was diagnosed when there was still the split between Asperger’s Syndrome and autism. Now it’s just Autism Spectrum Disorder. I digress though.

I have a vision loss, so I hear and smell everything. My sense of touch is very acute. So, what exactly happens? Imagine walking down the street just minding your own business. You hear a woman talking on her cell phone, you see the guy eating a bag of chips nearby, or you’re at a party, so many people talking at once. The music is playing in the background, the clinking of glasses. This wouldn’t bother someone who is “normal”. But to those on the spectrum, it would.

Over the years I’ve learned how to control this. I’ve learned how to make eye contact as to appear “normal” but my self-loathing of wanting to be “normal” has disappeared. For me, I was kicked out of several groups of autism for being too friendly. All my life, I’ve been different.

Sensory overloads cannot be avoided but there are things that can help:

Noise canceling headphones.

You can also distract yourself. Try to think about something you like. For me, I’m an aspiring jack-of-all-trades. I’ve trained myself, for the most part, to handle sensory overloads. Some are more difficult than others. If you have one, I urge you to find someplace quiet. Then take three deep breaths and count to 10.

Don’t take the path I did during my teenage years and see autism as a curse. It wasn’t until I was 24 that I felt like I could come into my own. Only YOU know what YOU want out of life, so let’s go from there next time.

By Sam Kanter

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