I’m Jeff, an Autistic person who is trying to make sense of the world and my place in it. I like to help other people when I am …
Autism and Sensory Issues
My whole life I have struggled with the loudness of music and sounds. While at a movie or concert I often resort to putting both of my hands over my ears. I will look around and wonder why I am the only one in this large group of people that it bothers. How can they not hear how LOUD it is? Sensitivity to sounds also affects our sleep at night. Many of us suffer from insomnia.
I’m also sensitive to light and prefer to sit in the dark. Since I work from home, I will go through the house and turn off all of the lights when my family leaves for the day. I use dark-mode on my computer and I reverse black and white colors by using a black background with green or white text.
Many Autistic people have to deal with sensory issues. Since each person is unique, there can be different reactions to similar sensory inputs. Some experience hypersensitivity while others hyposensitivity (under-responsiveness), and still others a mixture of both. Sensory issues are also cited as a requirement for diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in the DSM-V.
Hyper- or hypo- reactivity to sensory input or unusual interest in sensory aspects of the environment.
Sensory issues can affect any of our eight senses: visual (sight), auditory (sounds), olfactory (smell), gustatory (taste), tactile (touch), and the three senses that often get left out, vestibular (balance), proprioception (sensations from muscles/joints), and interoception (internal sensations like thirst and hunger).
Learning What Works For You
Each individual autistic must learn what works best for them to manage their sensory issues. There are products that offer help for more common issues. For example, the advent of noise cancelling headphones has been a godsend for autistic people. We can now eliminate all of the external sounds that can be so intrusive to us. There are also ear plugs that can filter a lot of background sounds. And some soft ones designed to be worn while sleeping at night. There are sunglasses that help with bright light and weighted blankets that provide sleep support as well as reducing anxiety.