As a person who has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome a few years back, I can tell you how difficult life can be for someone on the spectrum. I have a high-functioning form of autism, which means that I was able to go to a regular school and earn a bachelor’s degree. I have a stable job and am engaged to be married soon as well. Despite the normalcy that I experienced, though, it could not erase the fact that I was – still am – as prone to sensory overload as the next autistic individual you can find.
“Asperger’s Syndrome (Autism Spectrum Disorder) is more common that we realize and there are increasing numbers of high-functioning adults who are self-identifying or being diagnosed.” –Eva A. Mendes LMHC
If I can be too honest here, my only edge over folks with low-functioning autism is that I can follow instructions. I am not “in the zone” all the time, although I admittedly like to be left alone often. I can easily pass as a non-disabled person if you meet me for the first time. However, when you check my social skills, you will realize that it is almost non-existent.
One of the aspects I struggle with up to this day is sensory overload. We tend to be too one-track-minded folks to know the difference between a real or sarcastic comment. Attending parties is practically impossible without having a meltdown. Sometimes, when stress gets in the mix, our brains go on hyperdrive, and we can no longer control our actions and emotions.
Still, I choose to believe that sensory overload is a problem that we can all learn to cope with. If it gives you a headache as well, you may try some of the things that I do.
Pinpoint Your Triggers
The first thing to do is to find out what your triggers may be. In my case, for instance, I cannot stand noises. Shouting, blasting music, blaring horns — these are just a few sources of noise. For other people, they cannot handle pulsing lights or even colorful walls. You should realize your triggers so that you will know what to avoid. “We all experience these ups and downs, and most of the time we get through the downs and move on to better times.” says Dr. Kurt Smith, LMFT, LPCC, AFC.
Bring Useful Devices Everywhere
Prevention will always be better than cure. It is not wrong to put noise-canceling headphones, ear pods, or even sunglasses in your bag. These are devices that will help you in times when you find yourself in an overwhelming situation.
Make A Plan Before Going Anywhere
“Research shows the biggest boost in happiness comes from planning the vacation.” Shannon Torberg, PsyD, LP said. It will not hurt either to make a plan before you go anywhere. Imagine the place as the first step. Think of what you will do if you hear loud music or you are in the middle of the crowd. Figure out as well where you should sit or stand so that you can be as far away from your triggers as possible.
Let Your Friends Or Relatives Know About The Plan
Lastly, you should know that the plan may not always succeed if you act it out by yourself. Considering you will go to an event with friends or relatives, you need to inform them about it. This way, they can remind you of it when things become too much for your senses.
Living with any form of autism will never be easy, regardless if it’s high- or low-functioning. However, life must go on, and you need to try to make the situation better for yourself. Follow the tips mentioned above to be able to do that.