Everyone experiences the world through our senses but most autistic people have some sensory differences. It is really important that we have an awareness of these sensory differences. Most autistics will have some form of sensory processing difference. This can be being hypersensitive to sensory input and /or under-sensitive and therefore seeking more sensory input (a sensory seeker).
Our senses and sensory perception is impacted by so many things (the environment, our mood, current anxiety levels). So expect individuals to have different experiences at different times. Equally it can be a positive and negative experience.
Be Open Minded
It is important to be open minded about how people experience the world differently to us. I know it is all too easy to be dismissive when someone is saying they hear or feel something you are not experiencing. It is important that we remember to validate and listen to what other people are experiencing. Your autistic child can show you the world from a different perspective if you allow them too.
Everyone will have different reactions to smells, sounds, tastes, touch and with differing levels of intensity. One of the most common hypersensitivities is sound which can be why busy places quickly become overwhelming for some.
There is a wide range of senses, the ones most of us know are:
There are a few more that are good to learn about:
- Vestibular – balance & co-ordination this is how we know if it is us or our surroundings that are moving (like in a lift). we use this sense to walk on a balance beam.
- Proprioception – body awareness, how we are able to navigate a crowded room or clap with our eyes closed.
- Interoception – our internal body signals such as hunger, pain, temperature and needing the toilet
Stimulating one sense can help when you are struggling with another. So if someone is oversensitive to noise, stimulating the proprioceptive sense can help to make the sensitivities more tolerable. Stimulation of one sense can help to regulate other sensory systems. So for a child like mine who is a sensory seeker stimulating his proprioceptive sense can help him to regulate better. It can calm him when he is overstimulated and help him to be more grounded and focus.
Everyone’s sensory needs will be different but the more you explore, the more you will find what works. You will probably find your child naturally does some sensory self regulation without realising.
A local charity Gympanzees have a great free webinar on Sensory Processing:
I have a host of posts about sensory processing for you to explore a little further:
- The Sensory Side of Autism – a more detailed look at sensory processing and autism
- Do all autistics have sensory processing differences – a great collection of quotes from autism experts on sensory processing.
- Crossing the Midline – easy exercises to help link the two sides of our brain
- Seasonal Change – the impact of nature and seasons
- Sensory Toys – a few sensory toy ideas
- Simple Sensory Boxes – sensory boxes to help calm down
- 101 Sensory Supports
It is also important to also take a multi sensory approach to both play and learning.
If you check out my review pages you will find loads of sensory activities and products.
I am very pleased to say that Sensory Submarine are offering 10% off anything on their site to readers of The Autism Page. When making a purchase enter the code AutismPages10 to get your discount.
An Occupational Therapist with sensory integration experience will be able to complete an assessment of your child’s sensory needs.