Autistic people may have difficulties processing everyday sensory information.
The sensory differences can have an impact on autistic people's daily life, in the way they feel and behave. Most importantly, any of their senses may be over- or under-sensitive, or both, at different times.
Some autistic people experience a rare condition named Synaesthesia. In this rare condition, the stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway triggers involuntary additional sensations such as sound, colour, texture, shape etc. For example, a person might see colour but experience it as a sound. You can read about Synaesthesia and autism here: https://www.teachinclusively.com/post/synaesthesia-and-the-link-with-autism
peripheral vision might be blurred but central magnified
objects seem dark or shady
objects appear to lose some of their characteristics
difficulties with depth perception (challenges with throwing and catching)
focus on a detail rather than the whole object
difficulty getting to sleep because of the light sensitivity
distorted/blurred vision- bright lights/ objects can appear to jump around or images may fragment
Reduce fluorescent lighting
Workstation in the classroom or office with high walls or dividers
hearing of sounds in one ear
partial hearing or none at all
may not hear particular sounds
may enjoy loud sounds, crowded, noisy places, and banging of objects (doors, balls, heavy objects).
Visual supports to help with verbal information
Sensory experiences in the daily schedule
Informing other people about the under-sensitivity of individual
may be able to hear conversations in the distance
difficulties concentrating due to focusing on background noise and difficulty cutting out sounds
ear plugs, headphones with music
preparation of individual before going to loud and crowded places
noise reduction by shutting doors and windows
screened workstation in the classroom or office, positioning the workstation away from doors and windows
no or partial sense of smell and therefore inability to notice extreme odours (including own body odour)
may lick things to get a better sense of what they are due to difficulty or inability to smell
Distraction from inappropriate strong-smelling stimuli (e.g. faeces) with strong-smelling products.
Regular washing routine
smells may be intense and overwhelming
toileting problems due to smell over-sensitivity
avoidance and dislike people with distinctive perfumes, shampoos, etc.
Use of unscented shampoos and detergents
eats or mouths non-edible items such as dirt, stones, soil, grass, metal, faeces (known as pica)
likes very spicy/strong-tasting foods
some foods and flavours are too strong and overwhelming due to very sensitive taste buds. The individual has a restricted diet.
certain textures cause discomfort - may only eat smooth foods like mashed potatoes, yoghurt, ice cream or crunch foods such as crisps, apples, carrots and crackers.
may like bland foods
Advice from a dietician (as long as someone has no dietary variety)
chews on everything (inedible objects and clothing)
enjoys heavy objects (e.g. weighted blankets)
may have a high pain threshold
smears faeces due to the enjoyment of the texture
holds other people tightly
maybe unable/partially able to feel food in the mouth
For smearing: offering alternatives to handle with similar textures, such as playdough, jelly, squishy and sticky toys or cornflour and water
For chewing: offering latex-free tubes, straws or hard sweets (chill in the fridge)
touch might be painful or uncomfortable and therefore some autistic individuals may not like to be touched and this can have an impact on their relationships with others
dislikes having anything or specific clothes, textures on hands or/ and feet
difficulties brushing/ washing/ cutting hair
some food textures may be uncomfortable
only accepts specific textures or types of clothing
removing tags or labels and turning clothes inside out so there is no seam
use of clothes that are comfortable!
warning the person if you are about to touch them!
remembering that a hug may be upsetting rather than comforting
allowing a person to complete activities themselves (eg hair brushing and washing) so that they can do what is comfortable for them
changing food texture (e.g. smoothies)
introduction of various textures gradually! (clothes, toothbrushes, and different foods)
the need to swing/rock/spin/jump to get some sensory input.
Engagement in vestibular and proprioceptive activities such as catching a ball, swings, and seesaws that benefit the vestibular system (see https://www.teachinclusively.com/post/what-is-proprioception-sensory-diet-and-sensory-integration-theory)
difficulties in sport /movement activities activities
challenges terminating an activity quickly or stopping during an activity
Proprioception (see post about Proprioception: https://www.teachinclusively.com/post/what-is-proprioception-sensory-diet-and-sensory-integration-theory)
difficulty navigating rooms and avoiding obstructions
inability to measure personal space and proximity to other people (standing too close to others)
bump into people
use of weighted blankets for deep pressure
placing coloured tape on the floor to separate and indicate locations
using the 'arm's-length rule' to measure personal space (standing an arm's length away from other people)
difficulties with fine motor skills, for example, holding a pencil, opening and closing lids, and manipulating small objects such as shoe laces, zips and buttons.
Fine motor activities such as lacing board and squeezy tweezers to strengthen children's pincer grasp.
Different strategies work for different children as everybody experiences the world differently. It is crucial to understand the sensory information the brain receives can have an impact on the daily life and activities of autistic people.