Understanding Sensory Overload: 5 Simulations

Because Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) can vary widely, it’s often misunderstood and perspectives towards Autism can be misguided. There are many resources geared towards neurotypical individuals, including social networks for families and parents, and organizations that spread awareness and promote acceptance. Additionally, many individuals with Autism and game developers have created virtual simulations that render experiences for people with Autism- specifically sensory overload.

These videos may help the general population understand some of the struggles of living with ASD, and allow us to gain empathy for the individuals it affects.

Note: Those with epilepsy or who are prone to seizures should not watch these videos. Viewers should also be prepared for increased volumes, which are intended to simulate the intense auditory stimulation associated with ASD.


  1. Playground

During Vancouver’s Hacking Health weekend hackathon in 2013, Taylan Kadayifcioglu and his team created Auti-sim, an unsettling first-person game that allows the player to experience hypersensitivity. Auti-sim features layered, deafening shrieks from faceless children and fuzzy visuals, causing the player to retreat in order to see and hear clearly.



2. Watching a Movie

YouTube user WeirdGirlCyndi, an adult with Autism, created this simulation in order to provide a first-hand account on what sensory overload feels like.



3. Shopping at Walmart

An excerpt from documentary Inside Autism, this clip takes the viewer on a trip to Walmart, and simulates sensory overload on what the director calls a “bad day.” The camera becomes pixelated and the noise level increases drastically.



4. Walking Down the Street

This simulation compares the experience of walking down the street as a neurotypical person verses that of someone with Autism. Amplification and increased brightness work to immerse us in an overload of the senses.



5. Sitting in a Coffee Shop

This video is based on an excerpt from Carly’s Voice: Breaking Through Autism, written by a 17-year-old girl living with non-verbal autism. The simulation illustrates how getting a cup of coffee with family can be challenging and anxiety inducing.


These simulations can act as resources for families and individuals both with and without Autism. For individuals with Autism, these initiatives can provide as empowering ways to achieve acceptance and compassion among peers and in the community. And of course, these videos can serve as helpful tools to educate and initiate discussion for people who do not understand the complexities of Autism.

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