Sensory Overload in Down Syndrome
For this week's post, I wanted to include a very important subject that's prominent in Michael's life, and for some others who have Down Syndrome: sensory overload.
I constantly write and talk about Michael's calm presence, and his annoyance in young, screaming children. What that really stems from is sensory overload. Our sensory integration system stems from how our senses interpret information from the surrounding environment. This information gets sent to the brain, where it is then processed, organized, and sent as signals to various regions in our body to appropriately respond to the original stimuli.
With this in mind, we all interpret the world very different. And this couldn't be more true for the Down Syndrome population. Issues with sensory integration can make someone react completely differently to situations. What some may think are behavioral issues, may actually stem from sensory overload.
Not everyone with Down Syndrome may experience this, but for someone like Michael, his body becomes overwhelmed with emotional auditory stimuli.
Oftentimes, Michael enjoys certain loud sounds. He loves listening to music loudly, and sometimes I'll catch him putting his toy trash-truck up to his ear while it's playing music.
But start having an argument around him, and it's game-over. Even if rude comments, crying (especially from babies or children), or yelling aren't directed at him, he will take everything personally. He immediately gets upset and starts panicking. He'll often start grunting and whining, and if it's really bad, will start hitting himself in the head.
Because of this, we're very cautious about bringing Michael to environments where there may be small children. If a baby's crying around Michael, he immediately gets upset, and we have to leave immediately.
Thus, it's incredibly important to consider how you are behaving around someone who has special needs, and to be understanding of how they may react to your behavior. Not everything may be intended to come off negatively, but may just be a result of an issue with sensory processing.