Autism Resource blog:

What's Sensory Overload Like?

Nov 13, 2019
Jordan Brown
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Part of the diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorder is a heightened sensitivity to sensory stimuli such as sound, taste, and touch. Our certified autism clinicians work with caregivers on the AnswersNow Autism app, and we frequently provide guidance to parents whose children are affected by sensory overload. But what is sensory overload exactly? It's a term that can mean a lot of different things. Which is why we want to focus on just one aspect of sensory overload at this point: sound.

Sensory Overload: When Individuals with Autism are Overwhelmed by Sound

The first step to help your child manage their sensory overload issues is to develop empathy for what they are going through. We know this is easier said than done. That's why we found this extremely compelling video to give you an idea of what it's like. If you look at the comments for this video, you will see that others agree, including individuals living with autism. Take a few minutes now and watch this video.

Let's debrief this sensory overload video for a minute

How did this video make you feel? What was running through your mind as you watched the boy in the video move from scene to scene? Do you have a better understanding of what it might be like to experience this kind of sensory overload? Education is the starting point for developing empathy. The more you learn about another person's experience, the easier it becomes to connect with them and provide support. All of our certified therapists have deep understanding of autism and the symptoms that make up autism spectrum disorder. We've already helped hundreds of parents create a roadmap to help their children with sensory processing issues. If your child deals with sensory overload or other sensory overload challenges, we can help.

AnswersNow Clinical Tip: What to do if your child experiences sound-related sensory overload

A common--and very effective--technique is to slowly desensitize your child. It’s frequently a particular sound that is the issue: a flushing toilet, a lawnmower, a barking dog or a car honking. The random nature of these occurrences can have parents on eggshells as they worry about the next incident. But the simplest way to help your child build tolerance is to make (or buy) a CD with the troublesome sound on it. (Amazon has ‘Sound effect’ CD’s and MP3s for around $10.) Simply play the sound, starting at a low volume, and slowly increase the volume until you notice any reaction from your child. Praise your child for tolerating the sound and slowly increase the volume. There is no magic formula here; you want to only increase the volume in manageable increments. Some children adjust quickly, others take time. Your goal is to work on their tolerance until they don’t react to the volume at normally occurring levels. Our AnswersNow clinicians specialize in these types of answers to your questions. You can download the app now and start getting answers to your autism parenting questions.

We can help with your child's sensory issues and more. Visit to learn more.

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