Homesensory processing disorderSensory Overload is No Joke

Usually, people think of autism when the topic of SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder) comes up. While it’s almost exclusively tied to that neurodivergence, anyone can have it. I have the auditory version, just like many other dyslexics.

Sometimes, it keeps me up at night, since I can hear every noise outside my bedroom. Our air purifier helps a little, but unless I’m already exhausted, there’s not much I can do. Ear plugs are uncomfortable and I highly doubt noise mufflers used by lawn care and shop workers would let me sleep.

During the day, I can usually handle it. Sure, I’ll cringe at certain noises, like sirens, loud car engines and bus alert tones, but they won’t send me into overload.

An assortment of earplugs still in their packages.

I wish wearing these things didn’t bother me.
via flickr

This Has Been a Rough Week

While I was trying to do homework on Sunday, our neighbor decided to do yard work with a ridiculously loud lawnmower (which caught on fire at one point) and weed-wacker for, oh, FOUR HOURS. During this time, there was a car crash on a nearby road, which sent no fewer than three helicopters flying over our house, plus a small airplane decided to fly low over our neighborhood.

At work on Wednesday, while I was trying to put stock away from our weekly truck, a crew was installing some new machine in the department I was working in. The drills were terrible.

Both days ended with extreme irritation and a raging headache. While it was happening, I had a hard time restraining the anger that always comes with the unintentional assaults.

It’s also exhausting. When I finally finished my last shift of the week yesterday, I was functionally nonverbal. My brain just up and gave up on processing expressive language. Between the attacks on my senses and the general stress that comes with the recent changes in my life, it’s little wonder I had to crawl into a corner for a while in order to survive my last class of the week.

Today, I’m struggling to focus on getting enough homework done that I can take it easier than I have been this weekend. I’ll still have a few chores to do, and hopefully a bunch of blog entries scheduled, but overall, I plan on chilling right out.

For the most part, my neurodivergence is a true gift. It helps me see the world through a unique lens and encourages empathy for those who struggle, but it can still be disabling.

Let’s Think About It

I ask you to read over my experiences this week and realize that I’m a fully grown adult with relatively mild SPD. Now, imagine what it’s like for a child who is still learning how to cope and whose SPD is much worse. Their communication skills are still developing, and they’re still learning about this type of neurodivergence, so they can’t communicate what’s wrong.

I ask you to keep this in mind when you hear about meltdowns or witness one in public. The child is suffering.

Meltdowns are different from tantrums, so I’ll bring back an infographic I made a while ago.

An infographic with two columns. On the left side, it says, "Tantrums: Goal Oriented-A scene is made so person making it can get what they want, Watches for Reactions-Depending on the reactions of whoever's 'in charge' intensity or nature of tantrum may change, Will Avoid Getting Hurt-Individuals carefully avoid injury, Ends Quickly-When goal is achieved, or individual gets tired of the tantrum, it ends quickly, Individual is in Control-Individual is in control of their actions the entire time, Warning Signs-Desires a particular outcome when faced with inability to easily achieve said outcome” On the right side, it says, “Meltdowns: No Goals-No demands are made before or during the meltdown, No Interest in Reactions-Individual has no interest in how others react to their behavior May Hurt Themselves-Because they’re reacting on a primal level to being overloaded, they don’t take action to avoid injury, so they may be injured during the meltdown, Slow to End-Meltdowns last longer than tantrums, and slow down only when child acclimates to surroundings at their own pace, Individual is Not in Control-Because the individual is massively over stimulated, they’re put in survival mode and react instinctively to the distress they’re in, Warning Signs-Spacing out, may be linked to medical issues, like migraines. Symptoms of becoming overwhelmed by sensory input.”

I’m a firm believer in the idea that nothing is purely good or purely bad. As frustrating as SPD can be, it’s also saved me from being taken by surprise by people on the street. It does have its uses, but it can definitely provide setbacks.

When it comes to kids, though, it’s a huge issue that must be dealt with. Judgement from strangers helps no one. Instead, give them the benefit of the doubt.


Sensory Overload is No Joke — 2 Comments

  1. Thanks so much for this infographic. It was just linked by a friend of mine and it is SO helpful to show to those who are unfamiliar with real meltdowns. My 2.5 yo has just been diagnosed with ASD and I remember being excited about his first real ‘tantrum’ – it was actually a huge leap forward in communication after so many hours of meltdowns.

    Thank you so much for your insights.

    (Also, the whole lawn-mower/fire/car crash helicopter scenario sounds truly horrific. I think you deserve a medal and a metric ton of ice-cream after enduring that.)

    • You are so welcome! I’m happy that infographic helped. Poor kid, insofar as the meltdowns go. They’re so draining for everyone involved. It’s fantastic that he was identified so early, though. I hope you can find the resources to help him cope with the challenges as he grows and monopolize on his strengths.

      LOL And thank you! I may have been miserable while it was happening, but I laughed afterwards, because of how typical that sort of thing is for me. As an adult, I know how to brush off a lot of what happens, but as a kid, not so much.

      Thanks so much for dropping by, Jean. Wishing you and your family all the best!

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