Sensory Overload: From Peace to a Deafening Roar

I decided to devote my next post to a problem that was rampant throughout my day today. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, people who fall on the autism spectrum often have sensitivities that can range over all 5 senses. Sound, textures, and smells seem to be the most common sensitivities among people that I’ve met and talked to.  As I’ve mentioned before, I have a range of sound sensitivities. I don’t have sensitivities involving any other senses, or at least none that I have encountered so far.

After receiving a comment today by a fellow student I was motivated to write this post so that I could help you all to understand what sensitivities are really like for HFA (and lower-functioning) people. I was told by one of my classmates, when I was having a breakdown due to sensory overload, to just “Get over it”. That is one thing you should NEVER tell somebody who has a form of autism. We have no control over the way that our brains are wired, and thus the way that we react to certain things.

I was sitting in my math class today and the noises around me sparked a sensory overload. This is where our brain has become so agitated by signals coming in through our senses that it messes up our thought process and makes us want to do whatever we can to stop whatever it is that is bugging us. My sensory overload in class today was caused by a myriad of sounds. You should also realize that those who fall on the ASD spectrum often hear sounds much louder than the normal person.  I could hear people in the very back of the classroom whispering, people around me chewing gum, pens clicking, fingers tapping, the sound of the vent blowing air…. all of these sounds drove me insane! I perceived them all, even the quietest sounds, to be about as loud as rock music playing. That’s what it’s like for an autistic person. I couldn’t focus on my professor, I couldn’t think… I couldn’t do anything! I wanted so badly to scream and yell or to hit stuff, just to make the sounds go away so that my brain would calm down and I could focus.

I don’t think that people realize just how painful, annoying, and distracting everyday sounds are for us. We try our best to act normal and not let people know how angry and annoyed we feel with all of these stimuli. I hope that I have helped you to better understand why we act so angry, annoyed, and violent when there is a lot going on around us. We aren’t violent and mean people. We just want the deafening roar in our head to stop.

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