Wordy Wednesday: Sensory Overload


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.


Public Bathrooms- A ASD Childs Opera House

We had a great morning Sunday after church and decided on pizza for lunch. We knew the kids wouldn’t argue and it would not be a losing battle at meal time. But what I battle every time we step into a bathroom is the symphony of yelps, barks, screams and chicken noises that come from my kids. They seem to think restrooms, and more importantly, public restrooms are their own personal opera house. We walk in, they bark, yelp and make chicken noises and I just stand there roll my eyes and wait until the circus has left.

It never fails. I have been trying to find a rhyme and reason behind this occurrence. But I’m coming up empty handed. All I know is it happens in bathrooms and on occasion rooms with high ceilings. My guess as to why- the echo they hear. But knowing they have noise sensitivity issues; why do they choose to make loud and unusual nosies? They can’t stand restaurants with large crowds; it makes them loud and “excited”. They can’t watch fireworks without going into the fetal position and covering their ears. So why are they attracted to bathrooms?

Is it along the lines of why as adults we like to sing in the bathroom? I don’t know. But I’m looking for a answer. Any answer. And google cant come up with one either. So I guess until they stop or google does its job I will accept the constant chicken noises, barks and yelps every time we walk in to a bathroom.

As a mom its hard to see your children not act themselves especially when it is not in the comfort and safe zone of their homes. Luckily, I have never been one to put weight into the stares and silent whispers of strangers.

ADVICE– Please don’t stare, comment or give disapproving looks. Until medical advancements make it possible to read into the ASD mind and how it processes the five senses we will not understand the why. We just need to accept they do it.