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My Reaction to That Sensory Overload Virtual Reality Video as Someone on the Autism Spectrum

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The Mighty recently reported on a virtual reality experience, produced by the National Autistic Society, depicting sensory overload through the eyes of a boy on the autism spectrum. We asked our contributors, if they felt comfortable, what they thought of the video.

As someone on the autism spectrum, I have had my share of meltdowns and panic attacks. So when I was asked for my opinion on a new virtual reality video depicting sensory overload, I was a bit nervous. But I decided I was up for the challenge and sat down at my computer to go through the experience.

Editor’s note: The video below contains flashing lights, bright colors and loud, sudden noises, which may be triggering for individuals who experience sensory overload.

The first thing I noticed was the woman in the video said something (obviously talking to the camera), and I couldn’t even process what she had said because it was said so quickly. This is definitely a real issue for me when it comes to everyday functioning. I went to pause it to see if I could understand it better, and my mouse slipped.

That’s when I realized I could pan the video 360 degrees. This makes the video much more realistic. I tried to look at everything going on, but then I heard this horrible, high-pitched sound. It hurt my ears. (Of course, because there was so much to take in, I had to watch the video a second time. It was only then that I understood the high-pitched sound was a store alarm going off, as the video takes place in a mall.)

The woman started talking again. I panned back to look at her. She was trying to tell me to calm down, but this only gave me more information I needed to process amidst everything else. It didn’t really help.

Soon, I realized “I” (as a person in the video) was starting to hyperventilate. This was getting bad. It was either a panic attack or a full-blown meltdown. And while the picture began to fade to black to simulate closing my eyes, the sound also died down. I can only assume that would imply plugging my ears. So far, pretty accurate.

Then, suddenly, the woman and I were outside the mall. I had stopped hyperventilating. The woman said everything was fine. But there’s something about this people may not fully understand. Although I was out of the overwhelming situation — I had already been through the meltdown and panic attack — everything was not fine. If this had actually happened, I’d be exhausted and it could take hours for me to be OK again.

So, overall, the video was definitely interesting. I think there could have been a bit more of a crowd of people in the mall to make it so you couldn’t figure out where more of the sounds were coming from. But the depiction of a meltdown due to sensory overload is pretty well done.

As the boy says at the end of the video, “I’m not naughty. I’m on the autism spectrum.”

Sensory overload is real. It’s not something to be brushed off or something I can just get over. I hope this video will help more people understand that idea.

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When 'Hope' Became a 3-Letter Word for My Son on the Autism Spectrum

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mom and son smiling We have a routine, you and me. It’s just how we do. Because putting emotions into words doesn’t come easy for you. 

So we practiced a few times saying these three words. And after a few minor hitches, you got the hang of it. What can I say, you’re a fast learner. That’s just how you do.

So now when I say “I love you,” and I might have to say it again, and it might not always work, but more often than not you will respond “I love you.”

And we’ve being doing this thing for a while now, you and me.

But last night was different. It wasn’t like all the other times of prompted routine responses. You surprised me. But then again, that’s just how you do. Out of the blue you stuck a three letter word right on the end and said, “I love you too.”

We never practiced that one, and I never told you what to say. And just like that you made it special. You made it your own, all on your own. I never imagined such a simple three-letter word could carry so much hope, that maybe one day you just might say “I love you,” out of the blue.   

But even if you never do, my heart has been made full. Because of a little three letter word like “too” was enough spontaneity to last me a lifetime of spontaneous “I love you’s.”  

And yeah, we both know coloring on paper may not be your thing, but you sure do a beautiful job of coloring the walls of my heart.  

You keep reminding me it’s not about what may or may not happen; it’s about the right now. Because I can get so caught up in the worries of tomorrow that the moments of today slowly slip away, and those I can never retrieve. But if I live them and breathe them in, then I will always have them to remember. And so I will live in the moments of “too’s” and as for tomorrows, well those will just have to wait because right now we have today.

Follow this journey on Branch Life Journey.

The Mighty is asking the following:  Tell us about a stranger’s comment about your (or a loved one’s) disability, disease or mental illness that has stuck with you for one reason or another. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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The Virtual Reality Video That Helped Me Understand My Children's Sensory Overload

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Have you ever seen something that truly changes the way you treat others?

This week I watched a video that has changed everything about how I treat and support my two children on the autism spectrum.

For a few minutes I had the privilege of seeing the world as they see it. I can never forget how that video made me feel.

I felt sick.

I felt dizzy.

I felt overwhelmed.

I felt trapped.

I felt lost.

I felt scared.

By the end of that video I was exhausted.

I was crying.

I have two children who experience the world at that level. I cannot stop their sensory overload.

Their world is so different than mine.

I have a huge respect for them now just for being able to get out of the car in a busy lot, or make it through a day at school, or walk into a shop.

I have promised myself to look out more for their stress signs and listen to them when they say, “I want to go home now.” I have promised to protect them more and understand them.

I feel bad for the many times I have told them to simply ignore the clock ticking when they said it was hurting their ears. I feel guilty for the time my daughter said the shop was making her feel sick, and not realizing the smell, the colors and the noise were overwhelming. I truly had no idea.

But that has all changed.

That video makes me see my children in a whole new way. They are stronger than I give them credit for, and they are braver than I knew.

To anyone who has seen a child on the spectrum upset and passed judgment, to anyone who has watched an adult panicking buying a bus ticket… I urge you; take five minutes to watch this.

It changed my viewpoint. I hope it changes yours too.

Follow this journey on Faith Mummy.

The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a meme, image or sign you’ve seen shared online that struck a chord with you, for good or for bad. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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When I Was Nonverbal: A Poem

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Being nonverbal for years

I often tried to have conversations with my peers

Using body language to bring on communication.

My mind was looking for the right way to tell my parents I loved them

When the doctors said I had regressed.

I knew in my heart I was there.

People sometimes didn’t understand.

While I often didn’t understand the world around me.

When I first started speaking, I found new possibilities

While supports gave me new opportunities.

Getting good grades in school became my motivation.

Being accepted for who I was became an objective.

Because bullying became a difficulty.

Years later even more things I wanted to do became a reality.

And I realized I wanted to become a role model —

That with hard work and determination we can all achieve amazing things.

And for our loved ones we could help them along the way.

With your help we will bring change.

Because with my parents help that nonverbal 2.5 year old boy today is now a national speaker, best-selling author, movie consultant, nonprofit founder, television host and full-time employee at Autism Speaks.

We will make a difference.

And when it happens you will be there with us.

It will be because we know all our loved ones, with or without special needs, just want to progress and be the best they can be every day.

Believe every day in our community.

Believe in hope.

We are learning more about finding the right supports for our loved ones.

Believe in the beauty in our community.

And finally…

Believe our loved ones will do anything they set their minds too. My parents always believed in me, and we always need someone to believe in us.

For every accomplishment, no matter how small. We will give them the supports.

Believe in them…

Always.

I shared this poem while speaking about my journey on the autism spectrum at the Autism Speaks Southern New Jersey Walk. If you ever need someone to talk too, to help you believe, you can contact me anytime via my Facebook Page.

This post originally appeared on KerryMagro.com.

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Autismally Beautiful

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Today I choose to stand before you

and be completely vulnerable, totally see through.

Not for sympathy, not for applause,

but to bring something more than awareness

to a misunderstood, puzzle of a cause,

in which I am a piece.

I am one in 66.

But I am not someone that needs a cure or a fix.

Or for someone to explain to me that I’m different.

No, I’m saying this to be a reference.

To be a voice for those that cannot speak,

and not because they are in any way incompetent or weak.

Because that assumption is the furthest from fact.

And I’m tired and done with being the punchline in someone’s jokes or acts

of those that have been duped

into believing “stupid”

and “autistic” are somehow synonymous.

I mean how thick can you get?

Here, let me throw out some names for you.

Dickinson, Einstein, Newton, Mozart.

All were undeniably smart. 

And they were believed to be autistic too.

So remember when you look at me, when you look at us

with a vision of optimism and choose to see through a different lens.

you will find grace and ingenuity amongst the breaks and the bends.

So for the last time let it be heard

that the belief that autism means a “lack of intelligence” is absurd.

When you next think of autism and how hard it can be,

remember the rainbow comes with rain as a fee,

and life may never be

a wish granting factory.

You may face stares and judgmental glances,

but these are your chances 

to educate the thoughtless, the clueless, even the cruelest.

And when you do, make sure they see

that autism is beautiful… and please don’t forget you heard this from me.

The Mighty is asking the following: What is a part of your or a loved one’s disease, disability or mental illness that no one is aware of? Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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Virtual Reality Video Shows What Sensory Overload Feels Like for People on the Autism Spectrum

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“Imagine feeling so overloaded that you just couldn’t cope.” That’s the situation the U.K.’s  National Autistic Society is exploring in a new virtual reality film that lets viewers experience what sensory overload feels like for people with autism spectrum disorder.

“Imagine the difference it would make if someone showed you a little kindness,” the Society writes on their website. “Rather than judging you as a naughty kid having a meltdown, or a ‘weirdo’ flapping their hands.”

Fostering kindness and understanding is the goal of the two-minute clip, released by the Society. The clip is shot in a shopping mall, from the perspective of 10-year-old Alex Marshall, who is on the autism spectrum. The video shows triggering stimuli such as flashing fluorescent lights, clicking high heels, a woman scuffing her shoes on the floor after spilling a drink, a colorful bunch of balloons and a flashing store security alarm. By its end, Marshall is breathing heavily behind the camera.

Viewers can look around the scene in 360 degrees on their computers or phones, or use Google’s cardboard goggles for the full virtual reality experience.

(Warning: The video below contains flashing lights, bright colors and loud, sudden noises, which may be triggering for individuals who experience sensory overload.)

Part of the National Autistic Society’s ongoing “Too Much Information” (TMI) campaign, the video is a follow-up to its first “Can you make it to the end?” film, which garnered nearly 60 million views. The TMI campaign also includes a research report, tips on how to help people with sensory overload and a map that allows users to pledge their support for autism awareness.

“To help the public understand a little more about autism, we’re really excited to be the first charity using virtual reality to demonstrate what this aspect of autism can feel, see and sound like,” Mark Lever, chief executive of the National Autistic Society, said in a press release.

Marshall, who starred in both films, said he hopes the campaign will help others understand his perspective.

“It really helps when people understand things, and this is a really cool way to do it – you can just show someone inside your head!” Marshall said in the release. “When someone’s seen what it’s like, I think they’ll know why I get overwhelmed, and then they’ll understand that I’m not being naughty.”

The video will be screened at malls around the UK, and given to members of the U.K. Parliament. A package for schools is also available and includes virtual reality headsets as well as lesson plans.

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