Usually, when we run into crying, shouting children in the middle of a shopping center, we stare at them for a moment before shrugging and thinking of them as naughty or disobedient, probably just complaining because their parents didn’t buy them candy or toys. It’s so easy to assume that children are just being brats, but so many of them who have autism spectrum disorder are actually going through a very stressful situation that the rest of the world doesn’t fully comprehend.
The truth can be much more complex and painful.
Children with autism experience incredible stress just strolling through a busy place. The loud noises, sharp scents, and bright lights of any common shopping center are often enough to overload the senses of a child, or even an adult, on the spectrum. Their brains work overtime trying to process all the thousands of details their eyes and ears and other body parts are relaying to them, and they’re not able to block out sensory input that isn’t useful in the way that the rest of the population can.
If you can’t imagine how overwhelming that might feel, you’re not alone. But you’re in luck; the National Autistic Society has put in the work to try to truly understand how sensory overload feels and to convey that feeling in a meaningful way to those who don’t struggle with sensory issues. This video is what they came up with.
Could you stand the impact of repeated flashes, disturbing images, and jumbled conversation all around you as it goes from mildly distracting to somewhat unsettling to positively overwhelming? Probably not, and neither can many of these children.
Sensory overload is a common problem affecting many people with autism and can turn even calm and harmless environments into unbearable chaos in the minds of those who struggle with autism or sensory processing disorder. Check it out to get a new perspective, and you may just think twice before labeling a crying child in a supermarket as “naughty.”Whizzco