Sensory Overload is probably one of the most visible signs of Sensory Processing Disorder. There you are just enjoying your day when the meltdown begins. For my son it usually starts with complaining that his legs don’t work. Then he is hungry, then he gets stuck on something like that we said like we would go to get an ice cream, but his sister had to go potty first, now the whole schedule is destroyed. Next his shirt will be too orange etc etc. Since starting therapy and diet change these days are few but before I would have done anything to just melt into the floor when an overload started happening.
It wasn’t that I was not sympathetic to my son, it was that the whole world was looking at him like he either was the biggest brat on earth or completely nuts. I just wanted to get out of there are retreat to a safe place. But of course his legs didn’t work which required me to carry a limping 4 year old with “bwoken” legs all the way to the parking lot. I am actually kind of giggling as I write this now. Looking back it was such a hard time, but now I can deal with it and see it for the humor that “some” of it was.
So back to sensory overload. Sensory overload occurs when a series of sensory simulations become overwhelming. Think about how many things you hear and see in a day, now multiply all those by 1000, that is a sensory overload.
My son is very sensitive to light, a bright ray shining in his eyes, a quick light change can cause a seizure. So we always keep sunglasses in the car. Things that are fun and exciting for some children are a nightmare for others. Have you ever been car sick? Well imagine if you had that feeling every time you walked down a hallway, and then when you got to the end someone shined a bright light in your face, then blew a siren in your ear. After a few hours of that you will snap and have a meltdown. Someone will tell you to get it together or yell or punish you. But you have been trying to keep it together all day!
Yes, you absolutely should discipline your sensory sensitive child, and as a parent you start to figure out when your kid is just being your kid, and when they are getting over stimulated. Here is a video about how it can be for someone with sensory overload.
Sometimes we walk in a building and walk right back out. But you can deal with the overload if you prepare your child for it. We played basketball this fall, at the start of the first game the buzzer went off, I had not even thought about it. So Little Bear played the whole game with his fingers in his ears. The next game we told him he could plug his ears but only for 3 seconds. He would watch that clock the whole game waiting for it to go off so he could plug his ears. But the last game he played great didn’t pay attention to the clock and didn’t even plug his ears when the buzzer went off. He had gotten used to it, and that was just fine. I didn’t push and he figured out how to deal with it.
Attack of the tickles! I cringe, literally cringe when a family member or friend starts rough housing with my son. Why? Well although it is good for his sensory input, the tickler will be done in ten minutes, but my son will be in sensory overload and will not stop for an hour. He will continue to jump on the person and elicit sensory input. When finally they are tired of it, but he is still in full throttle, he will look like the kid who doesn’t know how to listen and can’t respect boundaries. Anything that is exciting turns into this. He is so much better now. But trust me this was a big time issue. So if you are reading this please don’t rowel people’s kids up and then walk away for them to have to deal with it. This goes for any kid even the ones with out SPD. We walk a tight line in mommy land between complete chaos and control, don’t turn our lives into a circus…okay now that that PSA is out of the way, how can you help with Sensory Overload?
1. Know Your Triggers (sunglasses check, earplugs check, snack check, etc etc)
2.Plan for Plan B (the escape hatch)
3.It is Okay to Walk Away…(we recently spent about $60 on tickets to a dinosaur exhibit after 30 minutes it was time to leave. My son loves dinosaurs but it was just too packed and too loud.) Honestly I was ready to go too.
4.Let the Kid Live! (at that same dino exhibit outside the building were huge boulders, my children happily climbed from rock to rock for about an hour, it got all the stress from the exhibit out and we had a peaceful ride home. Take a walk, get some air, whatever, let their little body calm down, nature is powerful medicine)
5.Enjoy Them for Who They Are… (I have a blog post coming that will be entitled something like “the day I enjoyed my child and flipped off the world” but basically quit worrying about everyone else and just enjoy your child!)