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What it's like to have an autism-related meltdown

This guest post is by Taylor Orns, a vibrant, happy and lively woman who lives her life on the spectrum. Taylor also helps raise awareness with her blog and YouTube videos.This post is part of an initiative on our site called “In Our Own Words: Living on the Spectrum,” which highlights the experiences of individuals with autism from their perspectives. Have a story you want to share? Email us at!

As a young adult with autism, I know what it feels like to have an over sensory meltdown. It is not fun at all. It turns my emotions and day upside down.

So, an over sensory meltdown, to me, is something that happens when my brain receives WAY too many sensory messages. My brain functions very different than your brain. It picks up the messages I want, but it also picks up the messages I don't want. Those messages that I don't want sent to my brain are my triggers.

A lot of noise triggers me. Flashing lights trigger me. An open flame and/or candle even triggers me. Then, every single message gets piled up in my brain and goes into this part of the brain that keeps us calm (I call it my "control panel"). Then, at the least expecting moment, that's when the meltdown happens. (I go deeper into this in my YouTube video)

Before a meltdown, I immediately feel like something isn't right. Then, I suddenly get all stressed out, and I tense up. I get so overwhelmed by the tension and stress that sometimes when I respond, I sound angry, frustrated, and a bit mean, but it's one of those things I sometimes can't control. Then, I feel a lump in my throat, and I feel as if my heart is beating 100 times per second, then once I realized that the tears are coming, I know I'm about to have a meltdown. So, I go into another room and it happens. I cry and breakdown to my little heart's content. Sometimes I cry, sometimes I wail, but I don't harm myself or anyone around me. But some autistic people do.

If I have a meltdown when I'm in public, like at a restaurant (which is where my latest meltdown actually happened) or at a party or at the store even when a meltdown occurs, there's not much I can do about it because I have no where to go. If I'm at a setting where I'm very familiar with, I know where to go.

After the crying stops and the meltdown is almost over, I usually do something to help me get my mind off of what just happened. For me, if I keep thinking about it, it only makes it worse. So, about 60% of the time, I play games on my phone and that will help. The other 40%, I play with Play-Doh, Kinetic Sand, or Putty, and that would help. I would also watch a movie or a funny TV show that I like to watch. Heck, I'll watch Match Game to calm me down because it makes me happy! After I get my mind off the meltdown, I'm completely calm and I go about with my day, happy, calm, and collected.

Having meltdowns isn't very fun. Having autism may not be that much fun either. But in the end, it's all worth it because I get to share my experiences and help provide insight to help people understand me more. That's what makes having autism all worth it.

Watch one of several of Taylor’s videos on YouTube here

Have a story you want to share for our “In Our Own Words: Living on the Spectrum,” series? Email us at

The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.