First, let’s have sensory processing disorder explained by someone with a personal experience with it. Watch this video of Amythest Schaber, a person living with an autism spectrum disorder.
Differences in auditory processing are one of the more commonly reported sensory processing impairments. In one chart review of developmental patterns in 200 cases with autism 100% of the participants demonstrated difficulties with auditory responding.
Researchers also found that sensitivity to auditory stimuli in infancy was a powerful discriminator between children with and without autism. Incidence of sensory processing disorders reported in autism literature range from 42% to 88%. In other studies, the range has been noted to be higher at 78% to 90%.
Below I have copied some useful guidance on how to support individuals with auditory processing issues from the article, “Sensory Processing in Children With and Without Autism: A Comparative Study Using the Short Sensory Profile” by Scott D. Tomchek and Winnie Dunn.
Although, the hum of the air conditioner seems like mild background noise that is easy to filter for a neuro-typical person, it might sound like a small jet flying overhead with no end for a person with an autism spectrum disorder. So this is real and overwhelming and difficult to explain in ways that others can fully understand. However, it is a primary concern related to instructional and behavioral success. The following are a few ways that teachers and families can support individuals with an ASD:
- Headphones and/or earplugs can offer comfort and relief for many students. Noise-canceling headphones are the most effective as they replace irritating environmental noise by producing calming white noise.
- Fans to create background or “white noise”.
- Gradual introduction to noise which might happen in a few ways. Perhaps a student that has difficulty with the roar or lunch time might be allowed to enter the cafeteria before others so as to prepare for the gradual increase of noise as students enter. There might also be a place designated where they can go if it reaches an uncomfortable level. Another way might be to go to a loud grocery store for one minute and then wait outside for the remainder of the shopping trip [if safe]. The time is then gradually increased as the student is able to handle the level of noise without feeling overwhelmed and/or stressed.
- Provide an alternate, yet comparable setting. At school, sitting outside at lunch time might be preferable to sitting inside the cafeteria. At home, families may be selective in their choice of restaurants so as to create a relaxing dining environment.
For more of my blogs on sensory processing as it relates to autism spectrum disorders, read:
by Lisa Rogers
- S. R. Leekam, C. Nieto, S. J. Libby, L. Wing, and J. Gould, “Describing the sensory abnormalities of children and adults with autism,” Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, vol. 37, no. 5, pp. 894–910, 2007.
- L. J. Miller and D. A. Fuller, Sensational Kids: Hope and Help for Children with Sensory Processing Disorder, Penguin Group Inc., New York, NY, USA, 2006.
- Sensory Processing in Children With and Without Autism: A Comparative Study Using the Short Sensory Profile by Scott D. Tomchek, PhD, OTR/L and Winnie Dunn, PhD, OTR, FAOTA
- Greenspan and Weider, 1997
- Baranek, 2002; Kientz & Dunn, 1997; LeCouteur et al., 1989; Volkmar, Cohen, & Paul, 1986; Watling et al., 2001
- Bettison, 1994; Dahlgren & Gillberg, 1989; Gillberg & Coleman, 1996; Rimland & Edelson, 1995; Vicker, 1993
The Education (K-12) Blogs and Special Ed Q & A are written and maintained weekly by Lisa Rogers with Educating Diverse Learners. Lisa received her M.A. in Special Education with an endorsement in the area of individuals with severe disabilities. Mrs. Rogers has also created products that have been used throughout the state of Texas for training purposes. Through the Association for Texas Professional Educators [ATPE], Ms. Rogers has produced an online course that targets the importance of visual strategies for student with autism spectrum disorders and just released her highly anticipated book titled: Visual Supports for Visual Thinkers.