Sensory Processing Disorder and Autism: Auditory

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.

What causes Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)?

Aspergers101 Medical Vlogs is a series provided by the Autism Community Network. This is the first in a series on the topic of Sensory Processing.

In this clip, Adrienne Gaither, OTR, C-SIPT , answers the question: What causes Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)?

Using Narratives in School to Address Sensory Differences

Although sensory differences are very real and must be recognized as such, narratives can help to deal with these differences. For instance, there was a high school student that was having significant difficulty with the hallway transition from class to class. Not only was there the loud bell that signals the transition, but then it was followed by a crowded hallway and noisy teenagers talking in groups.

narrative

 

One way to address this might be to allow an early release from class to avoid much of this hallway chaos. Another option is to provide a narrative that helps deal with this difficult transition.

The following is an example of such a narrative:

Passing Period at High School

My name is ___________. I am a student at _________ High School.

In High School, there are different periods. A bell rings at the end of each period.

When the bell rings, the students walk in the hall to go to their next class.

Sometimes, the students make a lot of noise as they walk down the hallway. This might hurt my ears.

That is O.K. The passing period lasts only for a few minutes. Soon, the halls will be quiet again.

I remember that I can just wear my headphones & listen to music during the passing period.

Then, I will get to walk to my next class where it is nice and quiet.

I can do this!

Staff noticed that the student would repeat the story to himself while walking down the hall. A narrative can validate feelings, provide a solution and even offer comfort during a stressful time.

The following is another example of a narrative addressing sensory issues. This time, the narrative was written for a student that wanted to hug her classmates frequently and deeply to get that deep pressure feeling.

Supports for Sensory Processing Disorder and Issues with Touch

As with the senses of sight and hearing, sometimes one or more of the senses are either over- or under-reactive to stimulation. This is also true for the sense of touch. For some persons with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, certain textures feel uncomfortable or even painful. For these individuals, the idea of a hug or even accidentally brushing up against something may be highly stressful. In order to prevent this negative tactile experience, much energy and focus is spent avoiding situations that increase the likelihood of such events.

Painted hands for a border

Imagine lining up where there are others in front of you and behind you. The chances of being accidentally touched by either person may cause the simple act of lining up to be highly stressful and anxiety provoking. For individuals that do not like the feel of certain textures or things, parents and teachers may consider the following types of supports:

Sensory Processing Difficulties: Smell with ASD

Remember in our previous blog on taste differences that smell makes up a large part of our sense of taste. Therefore, an individual with an Autism Spectrum Disorder might have an extremely fine sense of smell, which can be enough to make them avoid certain foods or even lose their appetite. So, there might be overlap in this very complicated topic of sensory differences as they co-exist in each person.

“Our sense of smell is so deeply ingrained in our psychology that many times we don’t even realize how scents are affecting what we do and how we think. Smell, more so than any other sense, is also intimately linked to the parts of the brain that process emotion and associative learning. Meaning that our sense of smell influences our feelings and perceptions neurologically. Our brains are hardwired to perceive certain smells and have an emotional reaction to those smells.”

Excerpt from: http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/human-biology/smell.htm

Smell might be a hidden source of discomfort and even anxiety for some persons with ASD. “Hidden” in that a neuro-typical individual might not perceive a particular smell that registers heavily for the person with ASD.

I am reminded of a few instances where smell was a critical factor in the daily happenings of certain individuals with an ASD.

One young man with limited verbal capabilities would protest behaviorally when it was time to go to the restroom. Mind you, this was a boy’s restroom at a high school. After some careful analysis and problem solving, the staff decided to try changing the restroom from the boy’s restroom to the teacher’s restroom.

Sensory Processing Disorder and Autism: Taste and the Picky Eater

Many parents experience the “picky eater” from time to time. As with most differences on the autism spectrum, the difference in describing the picky eater with autism can be found in the intensity or degree.  Because of this relative understanding, one might be critical of the parent with a child with autism and tell them they just need to make their child eat food that is more nutritionally sound. But the “picky eater” is really just someone with sensory processing issues in regards to taste.

taste, picky eater, Sensory Processing Disorder, Aspergers

I was in a meeting where the educators and the parents were discussing the narrow food choices of the daughter as being a nutritional and even behavioral concern. At one point, one of the educators told the parents that she, herself, had a picky eater, and that she just had to lay down the rules and “force” the issue. The teacher proceeded to tell the parents that they should do the same thing. The mother became upset very quickly and in a raised voice told the educator, “Don’t you think I’ve tried everything to make her eat healthy?! I’ve had food spit out at me more times than I can count, and I’ve had the kitchen torn apart after a food-related meltdown . . . I’ve done it ALL!!!” 

I am trying to make the point that we are talking about a matter that goes beyond “picky eating”.

What is Sensory Processing Disorder?

Sensory processing disorder is a condition in which the brain has trouble receiving and responding to information that comes in through the senses.

Some people with sensory processing disorder are over sensitive to things in their environment. Common sounds may be painful or overwhelming. For young children entering school, they may find the fluorescent lighting, ticking of the clock, polyester in their clothing or smells from the cafeteria may prove overwhelming to the point of outbursts. Trying to identify the challenge and then accommodate will allow the ASD child to focus on classroom work rather than the irritant.

Others with sensory processing disorder may:

  • Be uncoordinated
  • Bump into things
  • Be unable to tell where their limbs are in space
  • Be hard to engage in conversation or play

Adrienne Gaither, OTR, C-SIPT with the Autism Community Network in San Antonio Texas, addresses questions on Sensory Processing and how the disorder may apply to your child diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

What is Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)?

Watch the rest of this medical vlog series:

What are the Symptoms of Sensory Processing Disorder? VIDEO

Aspergers101  continues the Medical Vlog series on Sensory Processing. In this clip Adrienne Gaither, OTR, C-SIPT with the Autism Community Network, answers the question: What are the Symptoms of Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)?

The Autism Community Network is located in San Antonio, Texas USA with an emphasis on collaboration with autism service providers, early diagnosis, and providing services to underserved young children and their families.

Do all children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) have Autism?

Aspergers101 Medical Vlog series looks at Sensory Processing. In this clip Adrienne Gaither, OTR, C-SIPT with the Autism Community Network, answers the question: Do all children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) have Autism?

The Autism Community Network is located in San Antonio, Texas USA with an emphasis on collaboration with autism service providers, early diagnosis, and providing services to underserved young children and their families.

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