This Video Captures What Sensory Overload Feels Like for Many on the Spectrum

Many people with autism struggle with sensory processing issues. Some may experience sensory overload or even sensory under-load…and many experience both. This can often lead to meltdowns—complete losses of control that are very unpleasant for everyone involved, but especially the person having the meltdown.

However, when many people see children with autism having a meltdown in public, they assume the child is misbehaving or throwing a tantrum. Many parents get judged for this, for being seen as “not properly handling” their child.

In order to reduce stigma and foster understanding and empathy, we need to do our best to educate the public about this issue—that the child is not naughty. They are not being difficult. The parents are not being irresponsible or too lenient on their children.

One of the ways we can foster that empathy is through helping people understand what exactly sensory overload might feel like for a person on the spectrum. That’s where videos like this can be very helpful.


This PSA from the National Autistic Society illustrates what it’s like to experience sensory overload. The video starts out relatively calm, and then the noises build up and pile on top of each other, and the scene itself becomes visually chaotic.

Take a look at this powerful clip to get a glimpse of what it can be like to have sensory sensitivity. Of course, everyone with autism is different, so this may not be a perfect representation for everyone. But hopefully it can least give us an idea of what it’s generally like to experience this issue.

(Please note, this film is intended to simulate sensory overload and so features loud, repetitive noises. If you are particularly sensitive to this, you may want to avoid seeing this video.)

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