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10 Things I Wish My Employer Understood About Sensory Processing Disorder

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My name is Emily and I am 23 years old. I have sensory processing disorder and I work full time as a Creative Designer. I absolutely love where I work (and I am passionate about design), however these are a few things I wish I could tell my employer:

1. Adults have meltdowns. I have sensory meltdowns – less frequently than I used to which is good, but I still have them. I will become so overloaded by something like a loud noise or change in routine and that’s enough to set me and my emotions on edge. It’s hard to manage my emotions when this happens and there’s only so long I can bottle up how I feel before I need to cry. If I have disappeared from the office, don’t worry, I am fine but I need to take regular loo breaks just to escape to a quiet environment for a bit.

2. I can’t talk, listen and write at the same time. It’s a lot of information to process all at once so if I look like I am zoning out or I am not responding, just call out my name!

3. Meetings can be overwhelming. Especially when lots of people are talking at once across a table. I always try my best to keep up with the conversation but I miss things easily so may need to ask questions or clarify things afterwards.

4. This sounds ridiculous, but I find bright colors super distracting. For example, many people hang their fluorescent bike jackets on their hooks by their desks. These jacket (although safe and a great idea while cycling) are visually brighter than the sun to a sensory being like me! The neon color screams at me visually and can make it hard to work at my desk if it’s in view. I would appreciate if people could store their jackets under their desks or in their lockers.

5. If you need my attention (e.g. I have my headphones in or I am busy typing) please don’t touch me. It will make me jump if you touch me on my shoulder to get my attention and will also make me feel very sensory and feel uneven on one side of my body. Please just stand in front of me or wave a hand at me – I am good at noticing people walking past me / a presence standing near me!

6. I find it very difficult to know what to wear each day, as we wear our own clothes rather than a uniform. This is great in terms of comfort but I do find it hard to know what is smart and I can’t stand any clothing that is bright or with tags!

7. I struggle to process too many things at once. For example, if people eat their lunch at their desk (which is totally fine) I can find the smells quite difficult to work alongside. The smells takes up more of my brains processing power as it is trying to come to terms with a new smell in a familiar environment and it can actually distract me from my work sometimes. Again this might be a time I need to nip out to the loo if it becomes too overwhelming.

8. I have so much trouble cutting my food up. I use my knife and fork the wrong way round, and I do not have any cutting skills. It’s sweet when people offer to cut up my food for me at lunchtime, but I find it hard as a 23-year-old to say yes to another adult cutting up my food. I am fine — I just cut things in my own special way!

9. I am quite OCD so if you see me clearing my desk and tidying up at the end of the work day, that’s just me trying to keep things neat so my brain is also neat and tidy!

10. I love work. I love routine. I love having a job where I can problem solve — due to my sensory processing disorder, I am a very meticulous and loyal person. Despite this, I also have an awful short-term memory. As a result I like to write down things to remember them and go back to them. So if you see me constantly scribbling, I am writing or drawing something down so I remember it!

Follow this journey on 21 and Sensory.

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Originally published: January 18, 2018
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