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Sensory Overload

Sensory overload is an individualized response to excessive internal or external stimulation to the olfactory, auditory, visual, proprioception, tactical, gustatory, vestibular and/ or interception systems.  It is important to note that sensory overload in itself is not an issue or a challenge.  Sensory overload becomes a challenge when it affects an individual or their peers’ ability to participate in their daily activities. 

Sensory overload is caused by the dysfunction or inability of an individual to process and appropriately respond to internal or external sensory input. 

How to recognize it:  Depending on the intensity of the sensory overload it may be harder or easier to recognize.  For example, someone with auditory sensitivity, a truck drives by, the individual may cover their ears.  But if a firework goes off they may cover their ears and begin crying.  

How to manage and treat sensory overload:

  1. Identify possible internal and external stimulus that lead to sensory overload
  2. Identify possible environments and scenarios when an individual may be exposed to those stimulus
  3. Create a sensory diet and/or space that allows for a variety of activities and items that are controlled to provide a calming effect. 

By Shannon Davis, PT