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

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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.

Originally published: April 1, 2016
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