How YOU can help when Neural/Sensory OVERLOAD happens
By John Counsel
Aspies crave certainty. We need to feel that we’re in control of our own circumstances. Routines help to make our lives more predictable and safer (less stressful — which means reduced anxiety in most cases).
We operate at a higher level of stress than Neurotypical people, which means that we’re often close to the threshold of loss of personal control over our circumstances and we experience meltdowns, shutdowns and freezes from neural/sensory overload.
Why and how this happens is explained here…
But the process is relatively simple: once sensory stimuli travelling from our eyes, ears, olfactory nerves (taste and smell) and skin (touch) to our brain’s sensory processing centres reach a certain threshold, the volume and intensity of those messages along our neurons (nerve cells) and the excessive numbers of unpruned synapses and dendrites that receive and transmit signals from neuron to neuron, mean that Aspies can be dealing with up to TEN TIMES the volume experienced by neurotypical people.
This causes nervous stress leading to anxiety and neural or sensory overload, increased demand for adrenaline from our endocrine system, all of which can result in loss of personal control of our ability to process those high volumes of signals by our processing centres.
When overload crosses the stress threshold, Aspies and Auties become incapable of processing rational thoughts and making objective decisions.
See what it can feel like to experience Neural Overload or Sensory Overload… this video let’s you see, hear and feel what young boy experiences at a shopping mall with his mother: it shows a shutdown, but during the period of lack of consciousness he could just as easily be experiencing a meltdown.
How YOU can help us when we cross the stress threshold
The simplest strategy to help us slow or eliminate this chain-reaction is to reduce the number of signals being received and transmitted so that we can clear the “traffic jam” occurring in our brains.
That usually means active intervention and help from people around us who aren’t being overwhelmed in the same way.
The simplest way to do this is to take us out of stressful environments — such as shopping centres, classrooms, sporting or entertainment venues, etc where the over-stimulation of our senses from people moving in large numbers, bright lighting, vivid colours, loud noises, barrages of noise and movement, etc all combine to render us incapable of dealing with them and our only reaction is to experience physical pain, emotional distress and acute anxiety that causes meltdown, shutdown or freezing.
By breaking the vicious cycle of overloading our sensory reception and transmission to the point of crossing the threshold and loss of personal control, we can gradually dissipate the traffic jam in our brains and eventually resume control over our minds, our bodies and our responses.
This is often the most direct way to help Aspies and Auties to either avoid or prevent neural overload, or to deal with it when it happens.
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