Most autistic people experience some form of atypical sensory processing. The DSM-5 acknowledged this by including hyper- or hypo-reactivity to sensory input in their revised criteria for ASD diagnosis.
Why atypical sensory processing happens isn’t entirely clear. We know what typical and atypical sensory processing look like, but we don’t know exactly why the two are different. There is strong evidence that the differences are neurological, meaning that the brains of people with atypical sensory processing are literally wired differently.
I have no idea how things in my brain are wired differently when it comes to sensory input. I can’t tell if it’s a problem with gating or with inhibition or with processing or prioritizing or filtering or feedback. The more I read about the neurological workings of the sensory system, the more places I find for things to go wrong.
But I do know how it feels to be wired differently.
The following series of posts takes an in-depth look at atypical sensory processing, sensory sensitivities and how a sensory diet can help with self-regulation.
Sensory Sensitivities and Atypical Sensory Processing – Most autistic people experience some form of atypical sensory processing. The DSM-5 acknowledged this by including hyper- or hypo-reactivity to sensory input in their revised criteria for ASD diagnosis. read more
The Difference Between a Sensory Sensitivity and Disliking Something – Sensory sensitivities can mean that we have the same reaction to eating spaghetti or jello as we do to (hypothetically) eating raw chicken. Beyond simply disliking a food, we feel a physical repulsion–our body reacts as if the food is harmful. It’s a natural sensory reaction, but to the “wrong” kind of input. read more
Sensory Sensitivities: Understanding Triggers – Everyone reacts differently to sensory triggers. Some people–including me–internalize their reactions. I get irritated, agitated, and eventually withdraw in sensory self-defense. Others react outwardly by crying, screaming, running away, covering their ears or eyes, or gagging. Often the final stage of both types of reactions is a full-on meltdown. read more
Sensory Diet – When we think of diet or dieting, we usually think of restricting our intake in some way. But a sensory diet isn’t about restriction, it’s about fulfilling sensory needs and improving self-regulation with a specific selection of sensory activities. read more
Related posts on sensory processing:
Tactile Defensiveness – Tactile defensiveness (or tactile sensitivities) takes many forms, but the basic idea is that it causes a negative reaction to a tactile stimulus that is generally considered nonirritating by neurotypical people. read more
Sensory Seeking – Autistic people are often sensory seeking in a big way. We have a strong need for intense sensory input and will deliberately seek out or create sensory experiences to satisfy that need. read more
Lost in Space – I have difficulty resting when I’m at rest. This article is a brief glimpse into why proprioceptive sensory input is so important for some people on the spectrum when it comes to staying connected to our bodies. read more
Interoception – Interoceptive sensations provide the feedback necessary for troubleshooting and correcting imbalances in the body. Many autistic people have dampened or muted interoception. We just don’t seem to notice what’s going on in our bodies until it reaches a level that other people would find intolerable. read more