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Sensory Sensitivity and Autism

Introduction

Man holding his head in his handsSome people with autism appear to sense the world in different ways to other people.

Some seem to be hypersensitive and some appear to be hyposensitive.

They misinterpret everyday sensory information, such as touch, sound, and movement.

So some individuals may find certain sounds or colours disturbing, while other individuals may not even hear the sound or notice the colour at all.

Alternative terms

Some people use the term Sensory Processing Disorder or (SPD) or Sensory Integration Dysfunction to describe sensory sensitivity.

The Sensory Processing Disorder Network, describes SPD as follows:

'a complex disorder of the brain. People with SPD misinterpret everyday sensory information, such as touch, sound, and movement. This can lead to behavioral problems, difficulties with coordination, and many other issues.'

Sub Types

Hypersensitive

People who are hypersensitive receive too much information via their senses, so their brains becomes overloaded.

This means they may see, hear, feel, smell or taste the world in a more extreme manner than other people. For example, they may

  • find certain noises disturbing or frightening
  • not like to look at things if they are a certain colour or shape
  • not like to taste or smell certain things

Hyposensitive

People who are hyposensitive receive too little information, so the brain struggles to make sense of what little information there is.

This means they may see, hear, feel, smell or taste the world in a more muted way than other people. For example, they may

  • not be able to hear certain sounds, including other people
  • not feel pain the same way as other people

Updated
29 Feb 2016
Last Review
24 Oct 2014
Next Review
01 Sep 2016