Outline the Sensory Difficulties Experienced by Many Individuals with an Autistic Spectrum Condition

It has been known for a long time about the difficulties in communication, social interaction and rigidity of thought and behaviour that characterise autism, but in recent years much more has become known about the sensory difficulties and differences experienced by people with autism spectrum disorders. What we see, hear, feel, smell and taste gives us information about our environment and ourselves. It helps us make sense of the world and enables us to act appropriately within it. Our senses overlay and underlay everything about who we are and how we behave.

Many people with an autistic spectrum condition experience either hypersensitivity (heightened sensitivity) or hyposensitivity (reduced sensitivity) to certain sounds, light, touch, smells and tastes, and they avoid or seek out sensory stimuli.

Someone with heightened sensory sensitivity might find that looking at particular colours or patterns on clothing distresses them while others might find the noise of a hand-dryer or electric light intolerable. These sensitivities to noise levels and some specific sounds can cause anxiety or even physical pain. On the other hand, an individual with reduced sensory sensitivity might not respond to pain, for example continuing to walk on a broken leg thus causing it further damage. People who lack sensitivity may not feel pain or extremes of temperature.

They may have difficulty with their sense of balance and sense of where their bodies are in space, which can be both frightening and challenging to live with. Some may rock, spin or flap their hands to stimulate sensation, to help with balance and posture or to deal with stress. People with sensory difficulties may also find it harder to use their body awareness system. This system tells us where our bodies are in space, so for those with reduced body awareness it can be harder to navigate rooms and avoid obstructions, stand at an appropriate distance from other people sand carry out tasks such as tying...