Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sensory Integration + Motor Issues

       This is one of the biggest issues in Autism and the DSM doesn't seem to mention this. Everyone has some sensory differences. No two people perceive the world exactly the same. This causes a lot of misunderstandings between people. Some people love to blast music, while others, especially older adults find it unpleasant. Some people, like me, love fragrances (cologne, perfume, air fresheners, essential oils) others find it overwhelming. If someone has a migraine, sometimes the lighting and sound that usually doesn't bother them become torture. A dog's sense of smell is about 40x than that of a human. I can recall petting my dog after I out on a mentholated muscle cream and he ran as if someone put ammonia under his nose(I know he's not human but just using him as an example). A hot pepper that may cause the average person a burning mouth is more a delicacy to others. Some people pay money and stand in line for hours in heat and humidity to ride certain amusement rides which I wouldn't go on if you paid me $1000. In Autistic people these sensory differences tend to be more pronounced and can vary by the individual. Sensory sensitivities and even sensory INsensitivities are a common issue with Autistic people and can become a major hindrance in a very sneaky way. It can be mistaken for lack of empathy, or even phobias. 
       Speaking of phobias, I think a lot of what people in general think are phobias are actually sensory sensitivities. A phobia is irrational. It is a product of our misperceptions. Knowing it is irrational may help and sometimes (not always) phobias can be treated with counseling. Sensory differences are a different ball game. Someone might fear a popping balloon for the same reason others would "rationally" fear getting shot. Sounds such as fire alarms which may be startling or annoying to anyone may be terrifying and painful for those on the spectrum and no counseling, pop-psychology, or speeches on self-confidence are going to change the way someone perceives things.
       Some mild sensory differences that many of us have are more in the category of pet-peeves. We all have a few things that may bother us slightly more than they bother others like flickering lights or the smell of a new carpet. In general people learn to make compromises with the rest of the world and learn to tolerate things. It is reasonable to ask a friend not to smoke near us if it bothers us, but not to ask a school to tear out their new carpeting because the smell annoys us. For some, flickering lights are a severe annoyance, others may not even notice anything flickering, while in some extreme cases it can be enough to cause a person to go into a seizure. In that case they need to avoid that environment. Luckily I don't have anything that severe but some people, especially on the Autistic spectrum do.
       Motor issues are also prevalent in Autism. Whatever hang to normally write with, try to write with the opposite hand. It probably can be done but it is a lot more awkward. Luckily we rarely have to do that unless we get a broken arm. Now try and apply this to any other bodily movement to get a perspective on motor and coordination issues. Not everyone Autistic has this. Some may have exceptionally fine motor skills. Some may be a mix and have difficulty with sports and excel at playing the piano (or vice vera).

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