Ahh, screaming kids, kids on table tops, kids under tabletops, kids covering their ears, covering their eyes and parents doing the “shoot me” sign to each other. That is us- when our kids are on sensory overload.
For our ASD kids, the senses at times can work against them. Their little bodies can only process information brought in from their 5 senses slowly as it takes them longer to understand and adapt to them. When there is too much stimulation (especially of all the senses at once) manic mayhem can occur. Typically for our kids it’s at the bowling alley, crowded restaurants, and completely new environments (like a vacation).
I will give you an example-
While Hubs was deployed I took the kids out to lunch after church. My first mistake was taking them alone, the second was to this particular restaurant. Where we are currently stationed food choices are limited. So we typically go to the same locations over and over. This happened to be only the second time we had eaten at this Chuck E Cheeseesk type establishment (anyone else remember Showbiz pizza?!). Luckily for us the games and bright shines games with flashing lights and loud noises are in a separate room from the dinning room. The mistake is the fact the restroom is across from this bright shiny and loud room.
So here I am with a 5, 3, and a newborn, alone, stressed from a deployment, trying to be a good Christian woman (as we just left church) and my son, having ASD, has run into the restroom and barricaded himself in there. I can hear him screaming as loud as he can, crying at the same time and see his little butt sitting on the floor under the door crack and then a mom with a little girl walks up. Bug has barricaded himself in the women’s restroom. Ugh. Then he starts banging his head. Even over the sounds of the race car game and wack a mole, you can still hear him. It takes two male employees to push the door open far enough I can slip in.
The look on my sons face was sure panic. He looked like he was lost in his own mental maze. And he was. There were too many bright lights his eyes say, to many noises he didn’t understand that his ears heard, new pizza he tasted and new smells he didn’t understand. He was on sensory overload.
The remedy? For us it was cheap $13 noise canceling headphones off amazon. It helps and if we can keep them occupied and focused it keeps them calmer. Also, finding a small quiet spot to calm down; everyone. I scooped Bug up and sat him in my lap in a bathroom stall. The close space made him feel safer and hid my grief for him. I felt so bad his little self couldn’t handle something so fun for most kids. Since then, we have been back several times. It is normally just a once or twice occurrence to a new environment.