Autism’s sensory issues can involve both hyper-sensitivities (over-responsiveness) and hypo-sensitivities (under-responsiveness) to a wide range of stimuli.
These can involve:
For example, many people on the spectrum are hyper-sensitive to bright lights or certain light wavelengths (e.g. from fluorescent lights). Many find certain sounds, smells and tastes overwhelming. Certain types of touch (light or deep) can feel extremely uncomfortable.
Hypo-sensitivities are likewise common. A low sensitivity to pain is a classic example. Another is under-responsiveness to the body signals that help control balance and physical coordination. This can result in clumsiness, which has long been associated with autism.
This video, by two students at the Ringling College of Art & Design, simulates the “sensory overload” experienced by many people affected by autism.
Helping someone with autism-related sensitivities
Awareness and accommodation can help ease related discomfort. Remember—each person with autism is unique, and this includes their personal sensitivities.
Examples of accommodations for hyper-sensitivities
Examples of accommodations for hypo-sensitivities
Therapies for sensory issues