Emotional overload

  • Some autistic people are over-sensitive to emotional warmth.
  • The person may experience negative responses, and these can sometimes be aggressive. The person may experience a surge of pain, it feels as if they are being attacked – ‘like being hit by an emotional taser’.
  • Such responses can be triggered by a variety of positive or warm approaches by the communication partner. The person may be sensitive to being spoken to directly, being praised, being called by their name, eye contact and so on.
  • Where possible, avoid triggers.


This series of short films shows an extended conversation  between Phoebe Caldwell (DSc, Expert Responsive Communication Practitioner who has worked with autistic people for 45 years) and Janet Gurney (BA, PGCT, Director of Training for Us in a Bus, a service based in Surrey that supports adults and children with profound and multiple learning difficulties and autism).