Overstimulation? What the heck is that?

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. 

The Meltdown

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.

This site is managed via WordPress for Android, courtesy of the @SamsungMobileUS Galaxy Note 2 by @Tmobile. Please forgive any typos. I know how to spell but auto-correct hates me.  😉

For more ways to help the Lost and Tired family, please visit Help the Lost and Tired Family.

Rob Gorski

Full time, work from home single Dad to my 3 amazing boys. Oh...and creator fo this blog. :-)
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R Steven Timbrook

Did anyone else have a day from #@$%???!!! Does the full moon have an affect on your kids???!!!


As an adult with autism, lemme try to add some things here for you.
-Emotional overstimulation is just as bad as physical/sensory. If not worse. I just recently explained this as best as I could- With my anxiety, I tend to pick up on everyone else’s depression or anxiety and pile it onto my own, when I already don’t know how to handle it.
-Sometimes shutting down is the response instead of meltdown to sensory overload. Shutting down can be different for each person. Sometimes it results in losing speech if one is normally verbal. Sometimes it results in more echolalia. Sometimes it’s just not being able to handle anything else and falling asleep (I call it “passing out”) for a few hours at a time. Sometimes a combination of both.
I went into depth about meltdowns before here: http://puzzlepiecesofsila.blogspot.com/p/meltdowns.html


@Silachan I told you I might need help. 🙂
Thank you for the insight. 🙂


@lostandtired  @Silachan No prob! Glad to be able to help. ♥


@Silachan Thank you for explaining it so well! If only my husband could understand this whole overstimulation thing, I think it would make him understand what his son and I go through so often.


@rmagliozzi @Silachan this insight will help many people, including myself. Thank you so much for sharing. 🙂


@lostandtired  @rmagliozzi  @Silachan You’re so welcome! If there’s anything in specific you want more info about, just ask away. I love writing and I love helping, so I’d be glad to help in any way possible.


@lostandtired  @rmagliozzi  Oh and I figured I can add something else too, my therapist explained this very well for me. I, personally, seem to react to high stress things as if they’re happening to me directly and as if I’ve faced them in the past, so it’s like reliving them. A drunken violent family member, for instance. I’ve never experienced one in the past, I’ve not had any bad experiences with it- but when something like that occured, I panicked and froze and reacted as if I had been traumatized in the past by it. That’s just a glimpse of how sensitive someone can be to things that might not even be about them.