How My Senses Work as Someone Who Is Autistic

It’s true what they say, when you’ve met one individual with autism, you’ve met one individual with autism.

The autism spectrum is wide and no two people with autism are alike. I always fear when someone asks me what autism is like, I’m going to create a certain “guideline” as to what it’s like to have autism for the person who asked.

People’s challenges with autism vary. I can only tell you about what autism is like for me, mainly focusing on sensory issues.

Touch, smell, taste, hear and see.

I personally lack taste. There aren’t many things I can actually enjoy when it comes down to food. For me, it’s more the textures, this is how I decide whether I enjoy something or not. For instance, mangoes; I like the texture of mangoes so I have quite an obsession with the fruit as well as the fresh juice. I don’t like the texture of tomato, soup, mushrooms, etc. So I tend to avoid these foods.

My sense of smell isn’t great either. I enjoy lighting candles and the wax melt, but for me to be able to smell these smells I have to light six to nine of the same candle. Whereas most people can smell things like garlic, bleach or candles, that’s something I can’t detect myself.

My sight is quiet sensitive. Bright lights physically hurt my eyes and head. I’m not just talking about the sun. Some days, while outside may look quite dull, it’s still too bright for me, which means I still need my sunglasses. It causes physical pain for me.

Sounds are awful. I walk into a shop and I hear everything! I can hear the cashier counting coins, the plastic bags moving around, the wheels on the pram squeezing, everyone’s conversation around me, someone scratching their head, the humming of the lights, children screaming and the self-service machines telling people to please collect their items or that there is an unexpected item in the bagging area. The worst thing is, they are all at the same volume for me.

Touch is a strange one for me. Sometimes if someone comes up to me and shakes my hand or pats me on the back, it’s like a burning sensation. Especially if I’m not expecting it. I’m currently going through physiotherapy after a recent car accident I had and throughout the whole 30 minutes of my appointment it feels like someone has put a boiling hot water bottle on my back without the fabric cover on. It hurts.

Not only do I have sensory issues, here’s just a few examples of some of my other struggles:

  • Social communication.
  • Difficulties reading facial expressions.
  • Trouble making eye contact.
  • Difficulties viewing others perspectives.
  • Difficulties understanding sarcasm.
  • Fear of change.
  • Obsessive behavior like cleaning.
  • Like to learn facts and figures.
  • Speak fluently but continue to speak on about a particular subject.
  • Inability to cut out sounds.

Not many people understand autism. I don’t believe people ever will unless they live with it themselves. I get told “you don’t look autistic” or “you can’t be autistic, you’re talking.” Autism is a invisible disability for me. You could walk past me on the street and have no idea I have autism.

Everyone with autism is unique. We all have our different struggles, we all have our sensory differences and we all have our different coping mechanism.

What we do have in common is the gift of autism. The gift to see the world differently. Even though, in my opinion, having autism is a real struggle for myself, I wouldn’t change it. It’s made me who I am. Autism doesn’t define me, but it sure as hell plays a big part in my life.

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Thinkstock photo by valedol

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