top of page

Sensory differences

Autistic people may have difficulties processing everyday sensory information.



gif

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


Sight

gif

Under-sensitive

  • 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)

Over-sensitive

  • focus on a detail rather than the whole object

gif

  • difficulty getting to sleep because of the light sensitivity

  • distorted/blurred vision- bright lights/ objects can appear to jump around or images may fragment



Strategies

gif

  • Reduce fluorescent lighting

  • Sunglasses

  • Blackout curtains

  • Workstation in the classroom or office with high walls or dividers


gif

Sound


Under-sensitive

  • 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).

Strategies

  • Visual supports to help with verbal information

  • Sensory experiences in the daily schedule

  • Informing other people about the under-sensitivity of individual

Over-sensitive

  • noise magnification

  • sound distortion

  • may be able to hear conversations in the distance

  • difficulties concentrating due to focusing on background noise and difficulty cutting out sounds

Strategies


gif


  • 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

Smell

Under-sensitive

  • 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

Strategies

  • Distraction from inappropriate strong-smelling stimuli (e.g. faeces) with strong-smelling products.

  • Regular washing routine


gif

Over-sensitive

  • smells may be intense and overwhelming

  • toileting problems due to smell over-sensitivity

  • avoidance and dislike people with distinctive perfumes, shampoos, etc.

Strategies

  • Use of unscented shampoos and detergents

  • Fragrance-free environments

Taste

Under-sensitive

gif

  • eats or mouths non-edible items such as dirt, stones, soil, grass, metal, faeces (known as pica)

  • likes very spicy/strong-tasting foods


Over-sensitive

gif

  • 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

Strategies

  • Advice from a dietician (as long as someone has no dietary variety)



Touch


gif


Under-sensitive

  • chews on everything (inedible objects and clothing)

  • enjoys heavy objects (e.g. weighted blankets)

  • may have a high pain threshold

  • may self-harm

  • smears faeces due to the enjoyment of the texture

  • holds other people tightly

  • maybe unable/partially able to feel food in the mouth

Strategies

  • 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)

Over-sensitive

gif

  • 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

Strategies

  • 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)

Vestibular (balance)


Under-sensitive

  • the need to swing/rock/spin/jump to get some sensory input.

gif

Strategies

Over-sensitive

  • difficulties in sport /movement activities activities

  • car sickness

  • 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)


Under-sensitive

  • difficulty navigating rooms and avoiding obstructions

  • inability to measure personal space and proximity to other people (standing too close to others)

  • bump into people

Strategies:

  • 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)

Over-sensitive

  • 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.

Strategies

  • 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.

53 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page