The Perfect Sensory Storm

The Perfect Sensory Storm

Friday was the last day of the grading period so I am not sure if any work was going to get done.  I had spoken to another parent Thursday night and she had told me Friday was spirit day and she was at the store buying her high schooler stuff for the day. I was not asked to buy anything and i figured my son would not be participating in the festivities. I did ask him about the planned pep rally and he said he has gone before and it was okay.  He is in the “ED” (emotionally disturbed- hate that term but it gets him the best, most appropriate supports) unit most of the day, there are only three kids and they are self contained.  His case manager is wonderful and if any issues come up they are resolved very quickly.

At 12:40 when he was to be getting on the bus I received a call from the school’s guidance counselor that my son was in her office. She explained to me that they had a pep rally at the end of the day and then someone pulled the fire alarm. She said he was clearly overstimulated from the pep rally and than the fire alarm put him over the edge. I can only imagine he would be overstimulated! I felt horrible for him.

When I arrived at the school he was still sniffling from crying. He explained the guidance counselor had to go upstairs for another issue so we sat there for a few minutes while he destroyed some pens. I tried to get him to play with the fidgets she had in her office but he declined saying the pens are more interesting. Of course they are!

While he was destroying pens I asked him what happened. He told me that the noise and all the people was just too much. I asked what he did (preparing for the worst) and he told me he covered his ears. Then what… He said “I started crying”. I almost started crying as I pictured him in that huge gymnasium- a couple thousand kids, ears plugged, head down crying and I would assume he was rocking.  Once he gets to that point of being overwhelmed he is unable to leave on his own and needs “rescued” by an adult.  So I asked him if he left with a teacher and he said no. So then I envision a major meltdown and they had to clear out the whole pep rally. Nope, that would have been bad but in some ways what happened was worse. He said he had to sit through the whole thing because no one noticed him.  At that moment my heart broke but I was also proud of him for not having a full meltdown.

I find out that his case manager wasn’t there today and make a mental note to be notified of when he isn’t going to be there.  My son is pretty calm by this time so we decide to go up to his locker and see if we find the guidance counselor since his locker is outside the ED room (I am guessing that is where the issue is).  When we get out into the hallway he comments that he is surprised that it is so clean so soon. When I clarify he tells me that there had been tissue paper, streamers, confetti from “those exploding things” every where. He sounds kind of annoyed as he is explaining so I comment that that stuff probably also upset him. He nods his head.

Yikes! it was a sensory nightmare at the high school Friday!!

We make our way to his locker and we do end up talking to the guidance counselor. She apologized but she had to come up to the room because another student was having an issue. I am guessing the day was too much for the other kid too! The guidance counselor was very nice about the whole thing and just clarified that it was the pep rally that upset him. I realize she should be nice about it but I have encountered guidance counselors that don’t get it and lecture me about how my son should have handled it better.  We discussed that she will make arrangements for him to go somewhere else during a pep rally. She reassured him that he never has to sit through anything like that, pep rallys or assemblies, that may upset him.

On our way home he was calm but I could still tell he was in recovery.  He very sheepishly asked if he could have some psn (play station network) money.  I bought him some because I felt he handled himself very well considering the circumstances, plus I felt horrible for him.  On Monday we will be discussing the appropriate supports but it sounds like the school was already prepared to do what was needed.  I think that any one of those things may have been okay but the combination was just too much and was really the “Perfect Sensory Storm”.


  1. I always hated assemblies and pep rallies for my kids. Would set them off every time. Then again, I hate them too. Way too much stim.

    Glad he is OK. Sounds like he handled it like a champ.

    • Thanks for stopping by. It is waay too much stim! I should have said no to him going but he is at the age where it is hard to tell him not to go to something. But the bright side is, he needs to learn what is too much and self advocate so I guess he learned in a somewhat safe environment.

  2. I remember how much I hated pep rallies, too. All that sounds so overstimulating. My son wouldn’t want to do anything that makes him deviate from the rest of the classes routine, so it gets hard to give the right supports when he won’t use them. As for my own experience in not knowing I had AS I never thought that I had a choice in dealing with the sensory environment. It wasn’t until I was married and in my late 20’s that I realized that not everyone felt this way. I thought that everyone was suffering in loud chaotic environments just like me, until my husband made an off hand comment about it not bothering him one day. Then, the realization set in that others were not just simply enduring all the chaos, but enjoying it!

    You’re doing great in making sure your son’s needs are taken on board by advocating for him. It truly makes a world of difference for ASD kids when parents understand and really support them.

    • Thank you- I really appreciate your comments 🙂 He is 14 and was just diagnosed with Asperger’s in May. Although he had other diagnoses previously he was very resistant to doing anything different than the rest of the class. This year he self advocated to be in a different class and has been much more receptive to accommodations this year. I am not sure if it is the age or the new diagnosis. Either way I am glad because before he would have meltdowns or shut down pretty frequently. It is interesting you thought everyone else was enduring it. I can understand why you would think that. I am not sure why anyone enjoys that chaos, I don’t actually enjoy it and I can avoid it now just fine so I don’t see the point in making my son get used to it. Thank you for your perspective, it always helps me 🙂

  3. I know what it is like to have sensory overloads. In high school, which I graduated this past school year, but like my Junior year we were seated on stadium in the gymnasium. Many times we had to stand at the pep rallies. Two classmates who were standing right behind me pushed me twice. I was lucky that they were people in front of me. I did apologize them for bumping into them but that is it. I was literally crying but no one saw it. I was mad at them as well and did want to hit them but I contained myself. It took me five years to realize that I should not keep things in side me just to please others. I also have the same diagnoses as your son plus another one.

    • Thank you for stopping by and sharing your story. I am sorry that you went through that- other kids can be so cruel. I am glad you learned to not keep things inside of you. We are definitely teaching my son that.


  1. […] Are HereButton CollectionContactSeries on BullyingWhere I have been ← The Perfect Sensory Storm November 1, 2011 · 10:34 am ↓ Jump to […]

  2. […] all of the support this week.  My son has done so well this year but had a setback that started here last Friday.  I am happy to report he returned to school today and it sounds like he had a great […]

  3. […] My son has been doing really well this year in general but we still have areas to work on.   Having climbed some really big mountains in the past I realize that I am currently tackling mostly hills in comparison.  But some days like a couple of weeks ago we still face some pretty steep climbs. […]

  4. […] have written a lot about school refusal ever since that fateful day of the pep rally. He has never completely adjusted back since then. The case manager has been very nice and […]

  5. […] We know he wasn’t doing well this quarter because he was struggling.  Prior to the Pep rally incident and the issues that followed he had comments of “excellent effort”.  […]

  6. […] interested in learning about the World War I weaponry than finding a girlfriend.  Pep rallies were too loud and he had no interest in them at all.  When he asked to be homeschooled I agreed.  Why should he […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: