overloading the warehouse


{image is a totally gratuitous picture of Katie, Chloe and Brooke, taken during Chloe’s visit last year.}


The other day, my friend, Chloe, asked for some help proofreading her slides for an upcoming autism conference. Some of you may remember Chloe (who I called Cammy at the time for the sake of anonymity) from THIS POST. I hope you’ve got a moment to click on the link, but if not, suffice to say that Chloe is awesome.

Diagnosed early on with PDD-NOS (An Autism Spectrum Disorder known as Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified) Chloe has recently made it her mission to become an advocate for others like her and those, like Brooke, who will follow in her footsteps.

The outline of her presentation was wonderful. Truly, completely, entirely wonderful. But one section of it stood out among the others for me. And long after reading it, I still couldn’t stop chewing on it. Because Chloe had managed to simply, artfully, in the most straightforward way possible, explain in two slides what the cumulative effect of overstimulation feels like.

Understanding the cumulative effects of overstimulation is huge in our lives. Huger than huge. Ginormous. So often I’ve heard myself say to Luau that Brooke “seemed to meltdown out of nowhere” or that “for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what triggered her.” Well, when death strikes by a thousand paper cuts, it can be pretty hard to find the one that was the final culprit.

That’s why we build sensory breaks into her day, meant to be taken BEFORE she needs them. Once she has begun to show the signs of overload, a break may not be enough. Much like drinking water in the desert BEFORE you feel thirst, there’s almost nothing more important for Brooke to learn than how to manage her sensory input before it overwhelms her system.

With Chloe’s generous permission, here are the slides that I will now and forever use when trying to explain this concept to those for whom it might be foreign.


warehouse pic

{image is a drawing of the outside of a warehouse}

  • Imagine a warehouse around holiday time
  • The warehouse is stacked full with boxes.
  • Then one more truck comes and the workers have to fit the boxes in the warehouse, but there is no room.
  • The warehouse walls collapse, because there were too many boxes.
  • This is like what my brain does when there is too much sensory stimuli in my environment.


{image is a photo of warehouse shelves piled high with boxes}




{image is a drawing of a brain}

  • The workers got overwhelmed.
  • There were too many boxes for them [to] process.
  • This is similar to how [my] brain feels when there is too much information for me to process.
  • My brain just reaches overload and I cannot take anymore stimuli.


{image is a photo of a worker pushing a stack of boxes through an already-full warehouse}


already full + more input = overload –> collapse.

Thank you, Chloe.

Thank you.

15 thoughts on “overloading the warehouse

  1. Chloe
    Thank you so very much for this. You explain it so very well.
    Add to it all that we live in an ever increasing, stimuli overloading world and boy is it just hard for so many of us. Both children and adults ( young and old are affected) .
    Thanks from me ( who knows what this all feels like) and have lived thorough numerous meltdowns with my two boys.

  2. Great job Chloe!
    Have you seen the video Mugged by Sound Rescued by a Waitress by Robert Krulwich on NPR. It shows how every day sounds can be so overwhelming. I tried to put the link but for some reason it wouldn’t work.

  3. Chloe – thank you so much for this! It not only helps me explain how my boys get overloaded, but I see myself in this as well. I’ve never had it explained like this, but this is why my own meltdowns occur. Too full. Thank you putting this in such a way that I can recognize when I too need the break. You are amazing.

  4. To continue Chloe’s visual analogy: There’s a video going around where a warehouse worker is rushing in a forklift and strikes some scaffolding, which causes a collapse of some of the scaffolding in the warehouse. Workers are kind of like coping strategies and when things get too hectic and you’re mentally rushing from one minor crisis to another, you eventually apply the wrong coping strategy for the problem and then meltdown. Smaller than a total-collapse meltdown, but still leaves a big mess and can damage things and people!

    Or, at least, that’s usually the more-common form of meltdown I have now as an adult.

  5. Chloe – may I send this to my son’s team at school? He’s a sensory seeker, so I don’t know if it applies the same way, but I’m sure the info will be helpful for others they work with as well. Thanks for the very clear illustration!

  6. I feel this way so often. My question from this though is how do you know when they have reached that point? That is trick right?

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