Making Sense of Sensory Part 1
This is my inaugural blog for Autism Speaks Canada. My goal is to give you a regular glimpse into the life of a young male adult on the spectrum, all the ups and downs- sprinkled with my unique sense of humour and occasionally a word of wisdom learned from my life. We are all wired differently especially those on the spectrum. Being hypersensitive can be a talent (like smelling or hearing stuff others don’t) and sometimes it can be a challenge that requires new ways to cope.
Having autism I have managed to grow out of certain sensory issues such as uncomfortable clothing, and loud noises to name a couple. But all of my life I have not been able to handle heat. I am always hot it seems like. That’s why chicks dig me. Okay all joking aside, I have severe heat sensitivity, this means that whenever I go outside in 25C degree weather for a long period of time I often break out in a bad rash, I sweat excessively, and sometimes I feel sick to my stomach or I have trouble breathing. This has happened to me on more than one occasion. I have had heat exhaustion before while working at a music festival it felt like I had a third degree burn, to me any exposure to heat feels like I have been burnt really badly.
As a result doing outdoor summer activities is not fun for me at all in fact I dread the idea of doing anything outdoors when it’s hot outside. I do enjoy swimming and fishing but I prefer to go fishing at sundown when I missed the heat of the day, and swimming always makes me, feel good in the heat. Most people won’t swim in Lake Superior because they say it’s too cold for me it’s the perfect 12C for swimming without a wetsuit. I hate it whenever people used to tell me that the water was too cold for swimming, because for me there is no such thing as water that is too cold.
Most of time I wish that it was winter year round and we didn’t have summer. Believe it or not, I actually do better in the winter than the summer, when its -30 C degrees and everyone is wearing thick jackets and is completely bundled up, all I wear is a sweater or a bush jacket without mitts or a toque. My mother recalls one time when I was in public school my teacher gave her a phone call saying that I came to school unprepared for the winter weather we had that day, I had nothing on that was winter worthy. The teachers were worried that I was being neglected or that I wasn’t smart enough to bundle up. This simply wasn’t the real reason, they had to be told, that I had a different body temperature regulator, so after that they understood.
Realizing that I sadly can’t stay in the Arctic all summer, I have found ways to cope with hot summer weather. I recently started using a cooling vest that you soak in cold water for a couple minutes and it helps make the heat more tolerable, and if I am in the heat for a long time it always feels amazing to have a freezing cold shower or an ice bath. And sometimes a nice summer rain shower does the trick as well. Even in the fall or winter I always have the fan on in my room and don’t use any blankets. I understand that I am not the only person on the spectrum that has this issue, I have read another blog that a mother wrote about her autistic son who doesn’t have temperature regulation that most people have, we are not so different him and I.
Other than that if I don’t have to go outside in extreme heat or if the temperature is 25 or above I simply don’t go out at all. I think it is safe to say that while everyone is trying to escape winter in the Caribbean or Florida I will be staying home in Canada embracing below zero temperatures that I wish we had all year. I am one of few people that loves winter more than summer. The one thing I want people to understand is that I have a high tolerance for cold and I would appreciate it if they didn’t pester me to bundle up in cold weather. It’s nice that people care but I would rather they accept that I am more comfortable this way. I am hoping to one day overcome this sensitivity by exposing myself to the heat more because I love to travel and a lot of popular destinations are hot places. Does your autistic child have a heat sensitivity? If so, what do you do to help them cope?
Until next time, “You’re awesome, take on the day!”
The Autism Speaks Canada blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks Canada’s beliefs or point of view.