Overstimulation? What the heck is that?
Tonight marks the end of a very long 4 day weekend. This weekend was filled with lots of play and excitement for the boys. On Saturday, the boys played all day with their cousins from Colorado.
They had so much fun. I wish their cousins lived closer so that they could play more often.
Today, the boys spent time with my parents. They had tons of fun and came home exhausted and ready to eat dinner.
All of this was great but it did unfortunately, lead to both boys but especially Emmett, being completely overstimulated. Overstimulation historically leads to meltdowns and out evening was full of them.
For those of you new to the Autism game, let me try to explain what overstimulation is and why it happens. Please understand that I’m not speaking from first hand experience but instead what I have observed raising my three boys who experience this quite often.
I welcome anyone’s input that could help further explain.
Basically, a child with autism and sensory processing disorder will see, hear, smell, taste and feel everything going on around them all at the same time. It’s an onslaught of stimulus that can completely overwhelm the senses. There is absolutely no way that anyone could process all of the sensory input received in these circumstances.
Inevitably, the meltdown will likely follow.
Contrary to what many people assume, a meltdown has nothing to do with bad behavior and should not be confused with a tantrum.
When a person with autism and sensory processing disorder has a meltdown, it’s their bodies way of purging. The experience is simply too overwhelming and it’s quite literally all they can do.
Anyone that thinks they could do a better job of handling overstimulation, should think again. These people are not weak. In fact, if I may say so myself, they are among the strongest people I know. How many of us could experience something even remotely similar to this and compensate as well and for as long?
I’ll be the first to admit, I couldn’t.
How can we help?
Let me begin by saying that when I witness my kids go through this, it breaks my heart. They are very clearly in distress and all of want to do if help them through it.
When my boys experience overstimulation, the first thing we do is try to remove them from as much of what’s overstimulating them as possible. Typically that means we pack up and leave wherever it is that we happen to be and head for home.
When it comes to my youngest, we take his shoes and socks off as he likes to be barefoot.
We will also help him change into something more comfortable and more sensory friendly.
Usually that mean he simply runs around in his underpants. For him, clothing is a challenge for him because he doesn’t like the way it feels in his skin.
Sometimes we will brush his skin. Doing this provides feedback and is very, very calming.
Another thing we doing put steady pressure on his joints. This provides relief for him as well and he really enjoys this. Some people refer to this as joint manipulation. This is very common in therapies like OT (occupational therapy).
Any kind of deep pressure, like a Weighted blanket works wonders as well.
Your milage may vary
Your milage may vary with these things but they are widely considered to be the most common ways to help an overstimulated person to decompress and find their center.
These are all things that we do for our kids and find great success in helping them to work through this difficult situation.
I would encourage anyone with experience, to add to the list. Share in the comments below, what’s worked for you or your family. This will not only help to educate people but it could also help some to find relief as well.
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