Sensory overload

Mondays are a bit difficult to adjust to. I transition from the calm relaxing weekend where I’m in control to the hectic world inside a school where every minute is planted with surprises. I’m always tired on a Monday. I’ve been hit with sensory overload all day.

What is sensory overload? The way we understand the world around us is through our five senses. Our brain takes in the information taken in by our different sensory organs and passes this information into our brains for it to sort, organise and interpret. Sensory overload is when your brain is trying to process the world through those senses but too much information needs to be processed. For example for me I find processing sound difficult. When there is lots of noise around I can’t filter different sounds in order to hear what I want. So in the staffroom when there is a lot of people in it all talking I find it really difficult to have a conversation with someone because every sound is hitting my ears at the same volume, same time. It feels like inside my head is full of air or energy compressing my brain slowly and my brain can’t breathe or think. Also I seem to experience a delay with what I hear. What I mean by this is that I will hear the sound but my brain will not process what has just been said until a short while after. For example when I’m in the corridor at school I will hear something that a student says but by the time my brain has understood it I’m too far and it’s been too long to react to what they have said. Also the time it takes for my brain to think of a response to what I have just heard makes it very difficult to react in time.

So when I experience sensory overload I have to find a way to output the information that has been inputted into my brain. I do this by stimming. I have many different stims (I’ve spoken about in previous posts) for a variety of occasions and moods. My school stims are stroking my earmuffs (they’re really soft and fluffy), flicking my wrists, rubbing my hands to name a few. All of these blend in well with the environment. When I’m in school I’m much more conscious of my stims. I do ones that don’t draw too much attention and are calming. Another way that I output all the energy clouding my brain is by being very tactile (not often at school). It’s weird I don’t really like to be touched, mostly because I’m an equaliser (I need to have same sensation on both sides of my body). If someone touches one knee I’ll need them to touch the other. However, I’m very tactile to others if I initiate it, I’ll hug, pat them on the shoulder tap them on the leg but all under my terms. If someone surprises me by touching me it’s like my brain didn’t have time to prepare for the sensation it was about to feel so it just feels much worse, like daggers or hot, burning.

The school environment is full of moments where my processing skills are put to the test. There are moments where if my brain has been overload it will work at an incredibly slower pace. Sometimes I’ll be trying to explain something to a student and the words will fall out of my head or the words are just not appearing for what I want to say. So instead of feeling ashamed I’ll just say I need time to process what I’m going to say and I’ll just sit or stand there and think. I could be there for like 30sec -1 min waiting for my brain to function, which is actually quite a long time mid sentence. To this day I’ve never had a student say ‘what’s wrong with you?’ Or ‘hurry up’ or anything of that nature and I deal with some really difficult kids. I think this is the best way to be though. If you don’t show shame then you won’t feel it. Sometimes I’ll be in lessons and I have too much energy in my body so I just dance a little like a little bop or side step. The kids think I’m crazy but really who cares I’d rather they think I’m crazy on my terms plus I get to ‘stim’ without sitting there rocking or hand flapping which draws much more attention to myself. I get to release the energy that would be so debilitating otherwise. I’m the crazy dancing TA!

I’m sorry if this post seems a bit scattered but after being overloaded throughout the day it’s harder to get what I want down on the page. It just seems appropriate to write about it during the moment, I’ve had enough time to relax a bit but can still explain the effects (I hope) because they have recently happened.

Thanks for reading. Hope you liked it. Peace out.

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2 thoughts on “Sensory overload

  1. This is helpful! My eldest prob has the same need for “symmetrical touching”. If it works, we’ll do it.
    I have ASD on both sides of my family, and I wish my Dad would have had a keyword like “I’m flooded”, then we could know to slow down. He was a strong version of “I cant hear myself think.”

    Liked by 1 person

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