Quick tips for managing sensory overload
- Quick tip 1Look for triggers around you.Look for triggers around you.
Tune in to your surroundings. Intentionally focusing on what’s happening around you can help you figure out if there’s too much sensory information coming from a sound, sight, smell, or something else you didn’t initially notice.
Food textures. The feel of certain types of clothing. Changes in routine. Sensory overload happens when something overstimulates one or more of the senses. There’s suddenly too much information coming in for the brain to process. It’s common in people with sensory processing issues.
Many people associate sensory overload with kids who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD). But it can happen with other diagnoses too, like ADHD. Researchers are still looking into exactly why this happens. But they’ve found there are certain types of sensory information, like clothing and food textures, that are more likely to cause it.
Some ADHD symptoms — like trouble paying attention to what’s going on around you — may lead to sensory overload. When you’re not tuned in, sensory information can sneak up on you.
Imagine rushing to leave in the morning and suddenly realizing how late it is. In the two minutes you have, you grab the first shirt and pair of shoes you find and throw them on. But the shirt you grabbed has an itchy tag, and the shoes pinch your feet. Once you’re on your way, it’s too late. Your uncomfortable clothing has already created a sensory overload situation.
There are also other reasons people with ADHD may experience sensory overload. Trouble with self-regulation can be a factor. So can struggling with switching gears (flexible thinking).
About the author
About the author
Amanda Morin is the author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education” and the former director of thought leadership at Understood. As an expert and writer, she helped build Understood from its earliest days.
Ellen Braaten, PhD is a child psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital where she is the Founding d Director of the Learning and Emotional Assessment Program (LEAP). She is also an Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Braaten's research focuses on ADHD, dyslexia, processing speed, and resilience in children. Her clinical work is in the field of neuropsychology, where she assesses children with learning disabilities, ADHD and developmental challenges.