I took this photo of my daughter recently in a busy shopping centre. It had all just got a bit much for her.
The noise of so many voices. The smell of so many different foods combined with the smell of people and everything the shops were selling. The brightness of the lights. The sense of dizziness as we walked in and out of different shops that were different temperatures, had different flooring and so many colours all around her. The constant thud of feet walking on the tiled floors. The bombardment of music and announcements. The lack of personal space in busy lifts and shops.
She could not wait to find a seat. She could not go on any further. So right where she was she sat down silently.
I left her sit alone at first. But after a while I sat right beside her. At first she was silent unable to even voice how hard it all was for her. Eventually she just said it was all a bit too much.
I may not have autism but I can so relate to that feeling too.
When she was ready we both got up and headed home.
I didn’t have to take a photo of her that day but I did it for two reasons:
Firstly I want to remember what happened so that I can try and help her before it gets to this stage again. As the shops get busier leading up to Christmas and the music, smells, and lights all get even greater I want to be able to keep a close eye on my daughter before it all gets a bit too much for her. It is my responsibility to pick up on her cues and notice the signs that things are stressing her. Perhaps I can learn from this powerful image and prevent her being so overwhelmed before we reach that point of freezing again.
Secondly I took the picture that day because seeing her on that floor while the whole world carried on made me realise something so important: sometimes we forgot that in the busyness of our lives others are struggling right in front of us. While I kept a close eye on my daughter that day my eyes were suddenly opened to the elderly man who was sitting alone having a coffee and the young mum struggling out of the nearby lift with two small children. From the look on their faces and their body language they both looked like it was all a bit much for them that day too. I vowed then and there never to be too busy to not notice when others are struggling right in front of me.
Once home I showed my daughter the photograph I had taken and asked if I could use it on this blog. ‘Yes’, she said ‘but tell people I am ok now. It was all a bit much but it gets better.’
My daughter realised she had sensory overload. Things had built up so much that morning that she needed time out. It happens to everyone sometimes.
Take time to sit alone in life. It is nothing to be ashamed of. A little time out is something we all need now and again. Perhaps someone will even sit beside you and support you though it too. I really hope so. No-one should be alone when it all gets a bit too much in life.
This post first appeared on Firefly