S is for sensory
Sitting, straining, struggling to deal with it all,
A bright light shines through the high windows and skylights. The glare and light flickers and bounces of the reflective balloons. The mixture of scents emanates from the kitchen. The ringing of the bell-like toys in the infant play zone, the ceiling fans buzz and the air flows in multiple unpredictable directions.
Sitting, straining, struggling with it all.
Tables scattered around the cafe area, bodies moving in all directions, kids squealing with delight as they play. Groups of parents in multiplicities of conversations. Fluorescent lights a buzz with activity. A seemingly random buzz of some machine-like contraption providing power or something to the various activities.
Sitting, struggling to not shutdown or meltdown…
Attention continually diverted to the different goings on. Filtering impossible as the sensory environment is awash with input and ever changing. The bashing of a hammer as a young child plays the ‘wack a mole’ game. The calling of a parent to their child across the centre.
So many inputs and nothing like the capacity to filter and integrate this.
Just a short observation of the environment that exists at the local indoor play centre. I am here with my daughters. It’s one of those things I avoid, due to all that sensory stuff, but, it is also one of the things I push myself to do for the sake of the joy and laughter and fun it brings.
S is for sensory…
I walk through the shopping centre. Bodies go everywhere in some seemingly random dance. The hum and buzz of the centre is a gradual build up to overload. The anxiety is instantly on the rise at the moment of entering the centre, perhaps already on the rise at the realisation that the trip will be made. Overload builds gradually, snaking and sneaking its way to the surface.
A person stops dead in front of me in the middle of a walkway, a group of parents decide to have a conversation in the middle of the aisle. I have to focus to negotiate that difference of bodies in space and orient myself, avoid smashing into them. It irritates immensely, I mumble my irritation to whoever is with me.
I don’t want to be in that centre, alas, though, I need to be, I have chores and errands to complete. The overload is brimming at the surface. It is time to bolt, I must get out, before, it is a disaster trip and not just a difficult one.
S is for Sensory…
I make for the exit to the carpark. As I speed my way as fast I can I am sure my walk looks exceedingly awkward, the wide malls of the centre become narrower with the mass of humanity moving in such random patterns, and narrower still by the extra cart stalls and fundraisers plying their trade.
A fundraiser approaches, I simply cannot deal with this interaction at this moment I must get out, I need to get out, to solace and withdrawal. I raise my hand in a stop fashion, it is ignored, the hawker keeps coming and begins to talk, I manage to mumble no thank you.
The hawker ignores this, continues forward towards me, into my space. I simply am unable to cope with all of this sensory input this invasion into my circle of safety space around me is the last straw. I snap…
Words come tumbling out, as though I have lost total control of my processes of communication.
FUCK OFF. I exclaim it for all to see.
Embarrassed I attempt to walk on with some scraps of dignity left. As I walk on I hear laughter and rude comments.
I turn and then I see this hawker pointing at me, laughing at me, with his co-worker I hear them exclaim words of what an asshole, what is he a retard or something?
Again I snap. I march up to him and yell in his face, to back off, ask him if he is simply too unintelligent to understand that when a person puts up their hand to stop you should stop….
A moment of clarity and all around me people are looking and I realise I have lost it again. I have snapped and complex mix of anxiety, sensory input, frustration and justice have yet again taken hold.
I turn and run, I get to my car, I am in a state, almost hyperventilating, I get in my car I sit and try to breathe, overcome with the intensity of it all, and I sob. Some unknown minutes later I manage to be in a state to drive home. I drive home and I retreat to my room, my cave.
S is for sensory…
The above situations are as honest and factual recounts as I can muster of difficult sensory situations I have encountered.
The sensory issues for neurodivergent people is a very real struggle.
It is a struggle for me and I would consider my own personal sensory struggles to be fairly mild in comparison to many other autistic people.
I can’t imagine how difficult those situations can be for others, but I know how difficult they are for me.
Sensory overload is a very real thing. It may be difficult to quantify, but it is real, it is intense and it is debilitating.
S is for Sensory…
Whatever you can do as an ally/family member to mitigate the sensory difficulties and struggles for the autistics you love and care for is a valuable gift to them. Don’t ever underestimate the impact it has.