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The sensory experience of an Autistic person

Let's circle up today and talk about the sensory world and sensory experience of an Autistic person, as our sensory profile plays a huge role in the way we navigate the world, express ourselves, make choices and engage with others.

Everyone has a sensory profile. Everyone has different sensory needs. Heightened sensory processing and/or a lack of sensory awareness are commonly a driving force behind the way neurodivergent people behave, and their core motivation. A person may dress a certain way as they may be sensitive to the way certain fabrics feel, they may eat certain foods as they can’t handle the way some foods feel when being eaten and digested, and they may avoid certain environments because of the noise, or lights there. There are many different ways in which our sensory profile affects our daily life.

An important distinction to make is the difference between a sensory sensitivity and disliking something. Sensory sensitivities are not a choice, nor can they be ignored (note that they can be masked – but this is different to ignoring them).

Another important concept to consider is that getting our sensory needs met and/or gaining sensory input is not about ‘getting your energy out’, it’s actually about getting your energy in. Without the right levels of sensory balance, Autists feel physically uncomfortable and can be in pain. When we are dysregulated, or anxious, our sensory needs become massively amplified. Suddenly our skin (which isn’t normally itchy) may become itchy and scratching gives us rashes.

As an example depending on our Sensory Profile, when we are dysregulated, even a little bit of light can make us feel so angry and like we want to cry or (more likely for me) tell off everyone around us as we don’t feel like we are coping.

Some Important Points to Consider:

✨Sensory experiences are real.

✨Sensory experiences can be physically painful.

✨Not gaining access to the RIGHT levels of sensory input can not only be dysregulating but also lead to psychosis and rage.

✨The only way to suppress your sensory needs is to try to ignore them. This means all your energy and focus has to be directed to try to pretend like you don’t need the sensory balance that your body requires. Doing this is called ‘masking’ and it will lead to exhaustion and stress and increase the likelihood of meltdowns.

✨Some Autists are totally driven and motivated by their sensory needs. You may think someone is banging their arm from distress, but they might be doing it to get proprioceptive input. You might think someone has urinated on the floor to be ‘naughty’, but they may not have even felt the need to get to the toilet.

I will share more about Sensory this week as it's a large but important topic.

Content inspo: Divergantz

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