The disorder is basically the brains inability to filter out the nervous systems messages and work them out into some kind of order or message in the brain. This is what leads to Sensory Overload and where it can cause problems.
Sensory Overload occurs when the person is unable to process or manage the sensory stimuli in their environment leading to an overload in the brain. There are 3 areas that contribute to the overload of stimui:
1. Increased amount of stimuli internally, such as anxiety or pain
2. Increased amount of external stimuli, such as a noisy environment, contact with strangers, touch of objects or material
3. Inability to disregard selectively the influx of stimuli to the brain due to nervous system distributions
This in turn prevents the brain from ignoring those signals and responding to them appropriately. The environment around the person being perceived differently. This results in the persons thoughts racing around their body and too their minds, in way that is too fast for them to handle and get a grasp on and causes restlesness in their body. This leaves the person feeling overwhelmed, cognitively overloaded and not in control. The constant overload leaves the body feeling fatigued. This whole process leaves the person with the inability to take in more information or concentrate for long periods of time (Harvey, 2012).
It can present itself as:
* Complaints of fatigue, sleeplessness
* Irritability, anxiety, restlessness
* General or periods of disorientation
* Reduced problem solving ability and ability to perform tasks
* Increased muscle tension
* Scattered attention and racing thought.
Unfortunately this disorder can present itself as an out control child, or one who has major tantrums. But for Missy Moo 4, I have been able to see from a very early age that she struggled with socks, shoes, pants, undies and touching her hair. For people to meet Missy Moo 4, outside of our house would not see what is going on in her mind. She has already overloaded from that morning just trying to get out of the house. It takes her 1 and 1/2 hours to get her dressed while we work through whats working for her that day. And yep some days even her favourite low seam bond socks, favourite runners, favourite shorts just wont cut it. On those days I have to be extra smart in distracting her to tie her hair, when she starts screaming 'ITS NOT TIGHT ENOUGH!" While trying to rip her hair out, Ive learnt to give her a little tickle, get her teddy and start talking in a funny voice, picking her up and giving her a squeezy hug to try and lessen the nerves shooting around her body.
But its already too late for her, her senses are overloaded and her brain has lost its ability to take in more information or to be honest, for her to give a shit about anything. This in turn makes it damn near impossible to get her to understand anything or to understand our rules in the house. It also stops her from initiating play, she is one who normally has a great imagination and loves playing with her lil woodez dolls in her room, but when she cant even do that, she will plop herself on the floor and start crying about wanting to be a baby and having a dummy. (Mind you she has never had a dummy!)
As she leads towards 5, she is getting a little easier, In fact yesterday we had a whole tantrum free day. All because she was happy with her clothing options and her hair had already been put in a plait the night before (I just put blueberry leave in conditioner spray to smooth it down ha ha) . She is slowly learning how to calm herself and this morning when she had one shoe on and was negotiating the senses of putting on the other sock, she called out to me for a hug. I know in this instant this is her way of calming her senses. She gave me a long hug and then went back to putting on her sock.
Here is a great video which explains Sensory Overload in Autism.
Thanks for reading. K