Many people can sometimes incorrectly assume that people on the autism spectrum find it difficult to handle emotions, or seem closed down and shut off, but this is not the case.
Often people, whether high or low functioning on the spectrum, find that they often “feel too much” and have very strong reactions to emotions, feelings and particularly how others react to situations.
This is known as being an “empath,” and it is a much more common trait amongst people with autism than you might think.
Challenging accepted wisdoms
It’s a theory which challenges many of the accepted wisdoms of autism, but many of the characteristics of a melt down or shut down are simply due to “feeling” far too much all at once.
This hyper-sensory vigilance can happen as a result of being in environments which are too bright, too dark, too noisy, too quiet or have aromas and odours which are too strong to cope with. This coupled with the challenges faced in also having to interact with members of the public, family and friends can lead to the slightest sensation or emotion becoming far too stimulating.
Dealing with feeling too much
It can be challenging to cope with, but there are some pointers you can use if you, or anyone you love is starting to feel over stimulated.
Raise your own awareness
It’s important to make sure that the environment you, or your loved one is in is as comfortable and stress-free as possible, especially if they are in a headspace where they are feeling too much. Could low lighting, quiet music, or soft furnishings help with too much stress?
Think positively and creatively
Think about positive sensory experiences you have had in the past that have helped settle you down. Do you have stimming tools on hand that you can use that will calm your thoughts or help you unwind a bit?
Prepare as much as possible
It’s impossible to prepare for every eventuality and it can sometimes mean that someone with autism, or their loved ones are always on high alert, but if they are going to be going into a particular environment which might be emotionally distressing or highly sensitive then it is best to be as forewarned and forearmed as possible.
It’s helpful to know ahead of time and also to consider what positive sensory experiences you can take into that situation with you as either distraction tools or something to calm and de-stress.