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The Sensory Issues I Face as an Autistic Person

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Sensory issues are common among autistic people, and from my own experience and hearing others’ views on it, I believe they are strongly related to the behaviors and moods in autistic individuals. I want to ask you to be aware that sensory issues are happening even when you cannot feel them, whether or not you are autistic! It’s impossible to feel exactly what an autistic person is feeling, but it’s absolutely possible to accept their feelings.

Autistic individuals tend to be more sensitive than their non-autistic counterparts because they receive most of the sensory information coming at them, while non-autistic (or neurotypicals: NTs) receive only a reduced amount of sensory information as they have a filter which helps them take in only as much information as they need or want. Sensory issues can include touch, smell, taste or auditory sensations of people, clothing, food, vehicles etc. Having some sensory issues is common in many autistic individuals, but the degree of their feelings and kinds of things they are sensitive to are different in each individual. So I will share my sensory issues as an example.

My sensory experience:

  • Hairstyle – I never liked my hair touching my face and forehead, so I often wear a hairband that is loose enough not to tighten against my head. I used to put up my hair in a ponytail with no bangs or anything every day in school when I was younger, and hated to put it down.
  • Tip toe walking – I didn’t realize I was tip toe walking until one of my friends in elementary school told me that I was doing it. I still do without realizing it. Well… think about it, walking is a lot of sensory information from the soles of your feet, and tip toe walking is very soothing somehow.
  • Liking walls – I like walls, and I almost always choose the seat next to the wall whenever it’s possible. I also lean against the wall when I’m standing if there is a wall nearby. I liked to lean on the ballet barre when I was watching others dancing in ballet school, too.
  • Simple clothes – I only choose to wear very simple clothes with no design, and with soft and loose fabrics.
  • No make-up – I’m 23 this year, but I don’t wear make-up. I don’t like how it feels on my face and I basically don’t like anything touching my face. I only wore make-up only when I needed to such as ballet performance and coming of age ceremony that is a big event in Japan.
  • Touch and smell of horses – This is something I like. I like the touch of horses a lot. I like to feel the warmth from the touch and to feel the life inside them just by touching them. I especially like their noses and ears. They’re absolutely gorgeous and lovely! I love their smell. Their eyes are beautiful, too. So all in all, I like hugging them!
  • Food – I started to eat vegan and gluten-free because such diet limits the food selection, and it reduces my stress of worrying about what to eat every day. The smell of animal products is often strong and some of them can make me sick, and also gluten makes my IBS-related issue worse, so I’m quite fond of a vegan and gluten-free diet as an autistic person.
  • Earthquake – Living in Japan, we experience earthquakes a lot. I feel a tiny earthquake that happens far from where I live and that is small enough not to show up on TV.
  • Haircuts -– I’ve hated haircuts whole my life. I feel pain when I have a haircut, and it doesn’t depend on the hair stylist’s skill because I’ve tried many of them. I also don’t like haircuts because hair stylists often talk to customers and ask questions. Very honestly, I hate that so much that I don’t like to go to have my hair cut. I wish my hair would cut itself naturally whenever it’s needed!

I can go on and on, but these are some examples. When I don’t have a proper hair day or proper clothes, I’m more likely to have a bad mood, get depressed and extremely anxious because something is not right in my feelings. I know I’m complicated, but I believe autistic people like myself can be very creative and different in a great way that contributes to society!

Getty image by Finwal.

Originally published: February 20, 2018
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