The world comes at 12-year-old Holly Lewis like a firehose accompanied by an ear-splitting soundtrack.
What is normal for most others is just too much information, too much chaos and too much noise for Holly.
And when things become overwhelming, Holly can have a complete meltdown that rivals any tantrum thrown by a 2-year-old, replete with kicking and screaming.
She has autism, and because she was tired of people asking whether she was OK, she decided to tell everyone in her school that she had the developmental disorder that affects her communication and emotional relationships with the outside world.
She stood in front of 180 people at her school in Britain, calmly saying, “My name’s Holly and I have autism.”
She also unveiled “Make It Stop,” a documentary by England's National Autistic Society about her, and detailed how the world comes rushing at her.
She is glad she finally opened up, Holly told InsideEdition.com Monday.
"I hadn’t told anyone," she said, because she was afraid her classmates would treat her differently. “Nobody knew. So I was nervous to tell everyone."
She wanted to "come out" as a student with autism, she said, and her remarks went off without a hitch.
“I was really proud of myself,” she said.
Her family knew something was up when Holly was a baby.
“We noticed early on that Holly was different,” her mother, Jo, said.
She didn’t seem to interact much. She played differently than others. When she went to kindergarten, she didn’t mix with the other children.
When she was punished for misbehaving with a timeout, Holly was happy.
“She actually enjoyed” being by herself, her mother said.
Being away from the noise and clamor of life, through autism’s filter, was a respite to her.
“When there’s a lot of people bothering me, sometimes it’s too much,” Holly said. “I like to go and sit on my own. I just want to be on my own.”
Holly is high-functioning, her mother said. And as she has matured, she has gotten better at controlling her behavior.
“The older Holly gets, the more you can explain things to her. We can tell her now that screaming isn’t really going to help anything,” her mom said.
But it’s a hard lesson to learn. "The difference with Holly is she won’t care," when she acts out in a crowded place. “It’s not great when your 12-year-old acts like a 2-year-old in public," she said.
Children with autism also don’t read facial expressions particularly well, or pick up on voice inflections, or understand idioms such as "It’s raining cats and dogs."
"Holly doesn’t get any of that," Jo said.
But since addressing a school assembly, Holly does get a sense of true empathy from her classmates.
After her speech, things "got better," she said. "I think people understood me more. They could understand that I was different.
"People treated me like I was normal."