Video Shows Sensory Overload From the Perspective of a Boy on the Autism Spectrum

Editor’s note: The video in this article shows flashing lights, bright colors and loud, sudden noises, which some readers may find triggering.

Alexander Marshall, 10, of West Yorkshire, England, is the star of The National Autistic Society’s new Too Much Information campaign, and he’s featured in a short video that shows what sensory overload can be like.

The video is shot from Alexander’s point of view during a trip to the mall. From noises to smells to bright lights, it shows all the things that might cause Alexander, who was diagnosed with autism two years ago, to have a meltdown.

After a number of triggering visuals and sounds, Alexander is unable to maintain his composure in the video. People pass by and give Alexander and his mother dirty looks as she tries to calm him down. “I’m not naughty, I’m autistic,” Alexander says at the end of the clip. “And I just get too much information.”

“When there are a lot of people barging past me, more often than not I will break down,” Alexander told The Guardian. “If I’m at home I would go to my bedroom, but if I’m in a public space I might just break down.”

“We’d love people to realize that he just can’t help it,” Alexander’s father, Ben Marshall, added during the family’s interview with the U.K. publication. “Judgmental looks and comments stop us being able to focus on Alex. He isn’t being naughty, he genuinely can’t help it.”

The National Autistic Society also released a behind-the-scenes video from the Too Much Information shoot, explaining how they cast Alexander and what those in the autism community wanted the campaign video to show.

“The alarms, the TVs, the stares you get from the public, even the sound of a plastic bag — these are things that autistic people told us they have to endure on a simple trip to the shopping center,” Mark Lever, Chief Executive of The National Autistic Society, said in the behind-the-scenes video.

“We want people to see the looks and stares Alexander and his mom get on a shopping trip and perhaps ask themselves, have they done that before in a particular situation?” Lever added. “And maybe after having seen the film, they might react differently in the future. Then in doing so, they really will have made a world of difference.”

The campaign aims to “bring about a lasting change in the public’s understanding of autism,” according to The National Autistic Society website.

World Autism Awareness Week is April 2-8 in the U.K., and today marks the first day of National Autism Awareness Month in the United States.

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism and Hope: Why I Share Stories About My Son

Hope. Only four letters, certainly not a long word — but a big word. Wikipedia defines hope as “an optimistic attitude of mind based on an expectation of positive outcomes related to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large.” Like most of what she wrote, Emily Dickinson’s definition of hope is [...]

When I Say, 'My Child Is Autistic,' and You Say, 'I'm Sorry'

It took me a while to be able to say the words “My daughter is autistic.” For a while, even when I said them to myself, they sat like lead on my tongue. When they did come out, it sounded like a stranger’s voice or an awkward attempt at speaking a foreign language. It took [...]

Legoland to Make Park More Sensory-Friendly for Kids With Autism

Today Legoland Florida announced they are partnering with Autism Speaks to make the amusement park and resort in Winter Haven, Florida, a more sensory-friendly place for children on the spectrum. The park is currently installing “a large panel of hands-on, sensory-stimulating activities in a quiet space,” according to a blog post on the Legoland Florida website. [...]

What Will Happen When My Son With Autism Is No Longer Little and Cute?

I went to Walmart the other night with my toddler and my parents. That entire day my son did not want to eat. He just wanted to play and play. While fighting the Walmart crowds and trying to shop, we noticed he was feeling fussy. I blamed it on the atmosphere, noise, people, lights, etc. As we passed by the McDonald’s section, he ran towards [...]