Every person needs to integrate the signals that we receive through our senses to do daily activities.  However, for people with Asperger’s Syndrome this is difficult because of Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).

For those of you that are unfamiliar with SPD, here is an explanation from the SPD Foundation:

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD, formerly known as “sensory integration dysfunction”) is a condition that exists when sensory signals don’t get organized into appropriate responses. Pioneering occupational therapist and neuroscientist A. Jean Ayres, PhD, likened SPD to a neurological “traffic jam” that prevents certain parts of the brain from receiving the information needed to interpret sensory information correctly. A person with SPD finds it difficult to process and act upon information received through the senses, which creates challenges in performing countless everyday tasks. Motor clumsiness, behavioral problems, anxiety, depression, school failure, and other impacts may result if the disorder is not treated effectively.”

Many adults have gone undiagnosed all their lives wondering why they have such a problem with the everyday tasks that neurotypical people seem to handle with ease.  You are not alone!  Most medical professionals were not trained to recognize sensory dysfunction.  As a result, many people struggle with this hidden handicap and end up being ridiculed, which in turn can lead to secondary problems like social anxiety.

Each person with SPD is affected differently.  Some people are hyposensitive meaning that the person is under-sensitive, which usually leads them to seek out sensory input.  Whereas, other people are hypersensitive meaning that they are over-sensitive to certain stimuli.  Some people have a combination of hypo- and hyper-sensitivity.  For instance, a person can have a hyposensitive auditory system seeking out loud noise but be orally hypersensitive leaving them to be labeled as extremely picky eaters.  People with a hypersensitive olfaction often struggle to justify why they should concern themselves with hygiene because strong smells of deodorant and hair products can be truly upsetting.  There is one quote from an unknown author that has stayed with me since high school, which reads, “You only have one chance to make a first impression.”  This statement is painfully true.  If you meet someone smelling of body odor with your hair disheveled – this will leave a lasting impression on the person that you don’t take pride in your appearance, which usually then leads them to believe that you don’t value chabut I racteristics such as organization, cleanliness, etc.

Autism and Sensory processing disorder in adults

How do you overcome this?

Due to the fact that every person is differently affected by SPD, it is important to receive occupational therapy with a sensory approach to tailor the session to your individual needs.  The occupational therapist can work with you to find different calming techniques that can be used when over-stimulated or stimulating activities when your brain is craving sensation.  They may even develop a “sensory diet,” which is when you schedule certain sensory activities throughout the day to help regulate your central nervous system.

Some other good suggestions to alleviate sensory triggers are:

  • Use non-scented deodorant
  • If the sensation of showers is bothersome, then take a bath.  In order to eliminate the drastic change in temperature when exiting the tub, use a small space heater to warm the bathroom.
  • Use an electric toothbrush instead of a manual.
  • Try cutting or smashing small fruits (like blueberries or grapes) if you don’t like the bursting sensation in your mouth
  • Buy clothes without tags.
  • Try seamless socks.
  • Try different kinds of sheets.  Many people like the feel of the jersey sheets compared to cotton.
  • In order to make brushing your hair less painful, consider wetting your hair before your brush it.  Fill a spray bottle with water and a small squirt of conditioner. Shake then spray to help break up knots in your hair.
  • Wear noise reduction headphones or ear plugs when sounds become overwhelming.
  • Consider wearing sunglasses inside if florescent lighting is too bright for your eyes
  • Compressions can be very relaxing to some people.  If you have someone that you trust and know well – ask for a hug.  Other people find massages helpful.  Or you can try Temple Grandin’s “squeeze machine.”

 

Why not leave us a comment below and let us know which sensory issues you are most effected by in your life.

 

 

 

84 thoughts on “Sensory Processing Disorder In Adults With Autism
  1. Sophie says:

    I have Aspergers and I need help finding help. I don’t have any family or friends. I don’t know what to do.

  2. Andrew Rowland says:

    This sounds a lot like me. I definitely cannot where a shirt where the tag is lower than the neck and I get triggered by noises while watching a movie, an issue I use to not really have so much amplified by the fact that narrative visual entertainment is my religion. I couldn’t enjoy The Jungle Book because of this.

  3. Chris says:

    My hearing is quite sensitive and I have mental health problems including any, panic attacks and depression, also social anxiety. I prefer staying in my house and snuggling up to my dog, cos he gives the best snuggles ever. To be honest I would rather get up in an morning do my Jobs

  4. Susan says:

    Hi all my son is currently 11 and at the end of nearly 16months of assesmernts for aspergers! It has been a long and difficult path but he found relief in just feeling normal reading all the comments from other aspires! My problem now he has refused to go to school for a week and had a major meltdown he just can’t cope and until he Gets an official diagnosis there is no help he just seems so broken and I’m just told to send him to school. They don’t seem to understand what he is going through. He trys so hard to fit in but he simply can’t keep it up. Add to that I took this test and scored a 42 really made sense of my hole life

  5. Robin says:

    I am a 60 year woman that just took the test recently and discovered I have aspergers. It has explained so much of my “weirdness” in life, especially when I was young. My mom criticized me for being clumsy, I was so shy I would talk in school, oversensitive to everything! Now I know why fluorescent lights drive me crazy, any overhead lighting is too bright for me. I cannot hardly stand it in a mall, as I get sensory overload from all the sounds, lights and people. seems I pick up other people’s “vibes” even. I ran out of the mall one time at Christmas in a panic attack. Never been back at Christmas again. I have to avoid loud restaurants as its too much. I don’t have as many of the social issues, moved beyond those, but never could get jokes. Believe everything literally. Have been hurt by people a lot. I can relate to grapes bursting in my mouth, I have to struggle to try to eat them. I don’t have too many food issues, but tags, my sheets, and bed have to have certain feels…I have to have very soft cloths as I also seem to have fibromyalgia. Just so glad that I have some answers to my weirdness! No one around me will believe that I have aspergers though.

  6. Kat says:

    Guys, you have no idea… I almost cried reading all the comments. My entire life I thought I was weird, and “broken” because of how I feel. My sense of smell is really keen, I never wore perfumes as they give me a headache; I cannot stand the heat but I am resilient to cold and pain (I have huge tattoos and I barely felt a prick when getting them). All the examples above just struck me light lightning! The “grey days” light, the night car lights, the people chewing with their mouths open (I want to punch them in the face and I could never explain myself why I felt that repulse), clothes tag and seams, stuff that is not too loud for other people it is for me (I take the train every morning, if there is a fast train passing by on the platform I am the only one covering her ears) yet I like music sometimes even loud. I can hear a tap dropping two rooms away, yet if there is a background buzz I can’t hear the TV nor what my husband says – let alone go in public places! I always hated parties, not only because I cannot chit-chat easily, but also because the noise prevents me from hearing what the people in front of me is trying to tell me… I cannot stand petty conversation around me, on the train every day I have to have the iPod on, otherwise I risk a meltdown. I almost have panic attacks if I forget the iPod at home LOL! 😀 It all figures, even if I don’t have an official diagnosis I scored 35 on the AQ so I am pretty confident I have Asperger’s and it would just explain everything. I am not weird, wrong or “broken” – I am a perfectly normal Aspie 🙂

    • Robin says:

      oh gosh Kat, I can relate to having to have my iPod….all the time I have to have light music or jazz on to keep me focused and calm. I play instrumentals to sleep by all night long. Wondering why the music thing? and I hate idle chit chat also.

  7. Philomena D. says:

    Recently I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at 71 yrs. My whole life I suffered from social anxiety, depression and loneliness, and all that comes with it. My grandson was diagnosed in 2009 and it never occurred to me that I could have it too. Until I started to play clarinet in a Concert Band. The conductor loved jokes. The members loved socializing. For me it was absolutely unbearable. I told them I was struggling. They answered I looked at it the wrong way, I didn’t need to be perfect. But I wasn’t trying to be perfect. The saxophones and brass sounded like an army of fog horns behind me. I became severely depressed. I don’t know what triggered my search, but one day I googled Women and Asperger’s Syndrome. And here I am, working hard to make sense of my life. Relieved above all. I am not that “old mad woman playing games” that some people said I was.

  8. Philomena says:

    Recently I was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at 71 yrs. My whole life I suffered from social anxiety, depression and loneliness, and all that comes with it. My grandson was diagnosed in 2009 and it never occurred to me that I could have it too. Until I started to play clarinet in a Concert Band. The conductor loved jokes. The members loved socializing. For me it was absolutely unbearable. I told them I was struggling. They answered I looked at it the wrong way, I didn’t need to be perfect. But I wasn’t trying to be perfect. The saxophones and brass sounded like an army of fog horns behind me. I became severely depressed. I don’t know what triggered my search, but one day I googled Women and Asperger’s Syndrome. And here I am, working hard to make sense of my life. Relieved above all. I am not that “old mad woman playing games” that some people said I was. I definitely discovered my worst sensory issues in a Concert Band!

  9. Lynda says:

    I absolutely cannot stand being in high-sensory situations, loud talkers, loud music, a lot of movement, a lot of conversations, movies etc. it ruins me for days, exhausts me and puts me on a very irritable edge. I have one social group left, but due to a very loud talker, I can’t handle it any longer. I am 58 and my mom always said I had autism. I am high functioning and on tests I have taken I score high for high-functioning aspergers. I have so many of the markers. Doctors tell me there is no reason to put an official diagnostic label on me at my age. I still deal with it all daily. I have never been able to tolerate very many things and people think I’m odd and have a “poor personality.”

  10. Laura says:

    Forgot to add that I too get migraines and have episodes of vertigo. I love what one person wrote here, that she is no longer abnormal, but normal for a person with AS.

  11. Laura says:

    Life with this thing is painful, to be sure. I’m 53 and was never diagnosed…they only catch the depression and anxiety, which are the symptoms not the diagnosis. I scored 32. I managed to hold down responsible casework jobs for years (partially because rules and regulations are a special area of interest of mine) before getting married for the second time and quitting. I’m so sensitive to odors and fragrance my doctor says I’m chemically sensitive. I can only use a few products on my hypersensitive skin. Tags or pills on clothes hurt. Bright light does too and constant music in the background will make me angry if I let it. Classical is sometimes easier to bear. Social interaction is the bane of my life…my one friend in junior high and high school saved me from being bullied, though I was still bullied at home until I was a teenager and stopped allowing it. If you show up at my house unannounced I will hide and pretend not to be home. My first husband couldn’t deal with my “antisocial” behavior and ended up finding a hyper-social replacement. From the frying pan into the fire, poor guy. Other symptoms of AS I have are that I am a human spellcheck, I often talk too loud, stand too close, stare at people without realizing I’m doing it, have to read blogs to make sure I’m dressing appropriately, have no close friends beside my husband (and don’t often feel the need for them but sometimes am crushingly lonely), am hypersensitive to criticism and tend to become very angry at any small slight. Yet I learned compassion and empathy and found God through all these many painful experiences, so there is a silver lining. AS in girls and women was not understood by psychologists back in the 70’s…just my bad luck. But for those of you still young, I pray you get help to make your lives more bearable.

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