Sensory Issue Basics

During National Autism Awareness Month, Autism NOW and The Arc offers the personal stories and perspectives of people with autism to generate discussion about autism awareness and acceptance. We invite your comments here and on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #AutismAware.

By Alexandrea Van Der Tuin

Disclaimer: not everyone with ASD has all of, or any sensory issues.

People with sensory issues can have some, or all of the following negative symptoms from exposure to their sensory triggers: debilitating headaches, dizziness, hot flashes, sore throats, stomach aches, flu-like symptoms, circulation issues, diarrhea, nausea, inner ear issues, and outright shut downs! Those are many of the problems that plague those with sensory issues.

Those who don’t have sensory issues aren’t as sensitive to the different triggers as those with Aspergers Syndrome, and can’t often believe they exist. Many times they don’t see a reason to accommodate by, for example, not engulfing the house with air fresheners, or wearing, or using fragranced products. It actually IS a real issue and diagnosis; and just because people haven’t experienced it, and they find it inconvenient to accommodate, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

Did you know that sensory issues are NOT caused by your senses? It’s true, if you have Aspergers Syndrome (or are an Aspie; and yes, I know the DSM now says ASD), Roscia, ASD, Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), Eczema, or sensitive skin, you very likely if not definitely have Sensory Processing issues. Your senses aren’t what make your sensory issues present. Senses are tastes, touch, smells, sensory inputs from sights, movement and balance, body position, and muscle control.

It’s true that your senses often retrieve triggers; so, if that’s the case you might be asking then what causes the sensory issues that so many of us have major issues with? The answer is our brains. Our brains have issues recognizing, categorizing, and appropriately appreciating or using the sensory input.

Here are some common locations and environments that may be a real problem for people with certain types of sensory issues:  bars, spas, the cosmetics department, the cleaner aisles of a supermarket, the back area of a fish or meat counter, tea shops, areas where very spicy food is being cooked, coffee retailers, Laundromats, hair salons, soap stores, candle shops, congested museums or indoor locations with air-controlled rooms, very buzzy places, airplane cabins, certain farms, concert venues, saunas, and dance clubs, are some examples.

Now that we know some of those who have or may get these issues, some of the issues that sensory processing issues cause, and places you want to avoid or find creative ways to be in, you may be wondering if there are solutions to allow the Aspie, ASD individual, and their support teams to be happier and healthier. The answer is YES!  I’ve been researching them for at least 12 years, and my new blog discusses this exact topic.

Alexandrea Van Der Tuin is a writer and disability advocate, who has significantly contributed to five online ASD communities, an Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, and is an Aspie herself.

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One thought on “Sensory Issue Basics

  1. I am working with a third grade student who has autism. He looses interest very fast, and it is really difficult to keep in on task. He gets upset very easily. What can I do to make the learning process a little easier for him?

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