Sensory Processing Differences: Autism
April may be over and all the hype regarding autism awareness however here at Daliland autism acceptance and awareness is an ongoing thing. This month we will be discussing a topic that was suggested to us by a family member of an autistic boy. We are going to discuss the sensory system differences and what this entails. Some people may not know themes discussed in this article and therefore may not understand why autistic children or adults do certain things. So the aim of this article is to help create that understanding and subsequently acceptance. In order to try prevent future stigma, prejudice or judgement in this context.
This is a brief overview of the reasons why autistic children and adults may do some of the following self-regulatory behaviors:
- Physical stimming
What is stimming?
What has been left out in the above explanation is that we all stimm. Neuro-typical and neuro-divergent: we all do it. Think about when you are in an anxious setting and your leg starts bouncing up and down furiously without you even thinking about it. That is your bodies way of channeling the anxiety that you are feeling. You are self-regulating that feeling. That is indeed stimming, but we give autistic individuals a weird look or stare in public for doing something that we all do.
This is why knowing about these things is important, we need to move away from judgement and stigma towards understanding and acceptance. I re-iterate this every month. So when you see or hear an autistic individual flapping their arms or humming that is their way of channeling what ever sensation they may be experiencing. It could be a feeling of joy or being sensitive to a very loud sound.
(Image taken from Google images)
The reasons why neuro-typical stimms may differ to neuro-divergent is the way stimuli is processed. The neuro-divergent brain processes incoming information through the various senses differently either to much or too little. Thus the sound of a garbage truck may be a sound neuro-typicals do not even notice but to a neuro-divergent individual it may be the most torturous sound they've ever heard. Some sensations may actually cause physical pain and may lead to an overload.
So I ask you to put yourself in a neuro-divergant's shoes for one moment, try and notice all the sounds, smells, sights, feelings (physical and emotional) that you experience all the time. Try to imagine that input as painful, or overwhelming.This may be hard to grasp, to help here is a video that was shown to me a couple years ago. I think is a good depiction of what an autistic child may experience when entering a shopping center. Please see link below:
This video is a good example, now imagine being hypersensitive like that and have someone shouting at you or trying to tell you something. It would be very difficult to respond and this is where either stimming comes in or a sensory overload. However it is never that black and white, this is just and example. Furthermore every individual is different so this is not a standard across the board this is just one example for you to try and see the world from a different perspective.
So the next time you see someone flapping or spinning or making what seems to you to be a strange noise just remember there is a reason for it. A reason that may be beyond your current understanding, a reason far deeper than you may think and also remember that you do it too: just differently. So I encourage you to stop and think before you pass judgement or a callas remark. Stop to think what that individual may be experiencing in that moment.
Sometimes toys, gadgets and other tools may help autistic individuals cope with overwhelming sensory information. For example the little boy in the video had a teddy bear, that may have been a comfort for him or to help him go to the center in the first place. However other things in the moment may help as well. Such as fidget toys/spinners, squeezing stress toys, noise cancelling head phones, different textured "tools" such as slime or goo or even shaving cream. What ever it may be it is important to explore this and find out what your child likes and what helps to comfort them.
Having those items close by can always come in handy. Also they may change frequently or never, it just depends on the individual and their interests/needs. For example it could be a piece of music that helps prevent a sensory overload. Again whatever the case it is important to try have your inventory of sensory comforts. You can find these items online, in store or even make them yourself.
This is another important topic to mention here as this is not well known and may help with further understanding.
What is synesthesia?
This article illustrates why understanding is so important because with collective understanding we can hopefully achieve acceptance. If you would like any further information regarding the themes in this article or you would like to suggest a topic please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org