top of page

Sensory Situations

One night on my trip this summer was especially hard for me because I was getting a sensory overload. We had just left Dallas and were making our way to the middle of Oklahoma to our hotel. However, it was getting late and this is when I am most susceptible to sensory overloads. Most Autistic people can relate to the experience of a sensory overload. We sense the world in different ways, and an overexposure to a certain input can be extremely uncomfortable and even anxiety-inducing.

I tend to care a lot about the texture of an object. I love rough surfaces instead of extreme smoothness, but this is not an input that usually leads to sensory overloads. My triggers are noise, sudden movement and flashing lights, making it difficult for me to navigate situations like a crowded and noisy environment . Over time, I have learned how to manage this stress but I still find it challenging to do this late at night or when an environment is extraordinarily noisy. That night, it wasn’t too loud but I wanted to take a nap and I needed a break from all the sensory inputs of the past few days. I was really looking forward to a hot shower, so I was hoping the kids would quiet down, but they got louder and louder. It was becoming overwhelming to deal with. Another issue with sensory overloads is that as they get worse, the sensory inputs become more irritating. When I got to the hotel, every single noise was overwhelming me. I vividly remember the elevator buttons being very loud. Obviously they were at a normal volume, but at that point, any noise was unbearable.

After that evening, I decided to figure out how I could prevent a re-occurence. I identified three major steps.

Prevention → Using headphones/earbuds, wearing an eye mask and moving myrself as far away from noisy sensory inputs.

De-stressing → Taking deep breaths, drinking water, talking to someone, listening to good music/watching a distracting TV show, leaving the space/taking a break

De-sensory → Taking a hot shower and getting a good night of sleep.

Just Ask! → Another great way for me to prevent a sensory overload is to just ask. I asked my program director what activities on the trip might be loud and because of his advice I did not have a sensory overload during any of these activities. Instead I took earplugs in case I needed them.

My prevention tactics worked and I did not have other sensory overloads on the trip. Of course, I know these aren’t permanent fixes and I expect to have another sensory overload sometime in the future. But this experience reaffirmed that if I am able to brainstorm particular scenarios ahead of time, I can try to prevent them from happening in the first place.

Now comes the part of the blog where I give my neurotypical friends some advice on how to help Autistic people in these types of situations.

First, speak with those who are Autistic ahead of an event or activity, if at all possible. Particularly if you are a program director or similar leader, find out what sensory inputs may be difficult for your Autistic participants. Speak with them about their prevention strategies so they can workshop how to be engaged in potentially stressful activities.

Another helpful thing is to identify and/or designate a quiet area/room in advance. This is especially important if you are planning a loud party (such as a bar/bat mitzvah). This can be helpful not only for Autistic participants but for others as well who just need a little quiet. It is not fun when the only option for less noise is the bathroom!

Lastly, DO NOT alter your activity. The main goal is to include and help. Keep the loud partying, while providing an alternative that allows others to participate and feel welcome while having an option to step out as needed.

20 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page