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Sensory Processing Issues in Children with Autism

Many parents and caregivers first notice challenges with sensory sensitivity when their child with autism is a toddler, when the child demonstrates an unusual aversion to light, noise, clothes, or anything else that affects the senses. Some children with autism will exhibit challenging behaviors in response to stimuli, such as screaming or tantrums.

Sensory issues are common in children with autism, with sensory sensitivities recognized as a symptom for diagnosis. Sensory issues can apply to a range of stimuli involving any of the senses, and can take the form of hypersensitivity (over-responsiveness to stimuli) or hyposensitivity (under-responsiveness).

Hypersensitivity, for example, might result in unwanted behaviors such as meltdowns if a child with autism gets wet, is exposed to bright lights or loud noises, or is made to wear clothes with an objectionable texture. Specific triggers depend on the individual.

Hyposensitivity, on the other hand, often manifests in motor skills issues and difficulty interacting with the surrounding environment due to under-responsiveness to the body’s signals that regulate balance and coordination.

Sensory issues like these can be addressed with environmental accommodations (dimmed lights, headphones, etc.), as well as with behavioral therapy like Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).

See also: SPD, Autism & Meltdowns

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