How Occupational Therapy Can Help Sensory Avoiders

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Many people who have autism spectrum disorder have sensory sensitivities. These sensitivities may be even more pronounced in children who’ve yet to be taught how to respond to certain things. When they don’t know how to react appropriately to one or more sensations, it may cause a child with ASD to actively avoid experiencing them at all.

Types of Sensory Sensitivities

In general, individuals with autism typically experience sensory sensitivities that are categorized into two broad groups. Hyper-sensitivities usually elicit over-responsiveness whereas hypo-sensitivities ordinarily result in under-responsiveness. There are many kinds of stimuli that can yield either a hyper- or hypo-sensitivity in someone diagnosed with ASD.

Here are a few examples of the stimuli that may result in sensory sensitivity in someone with ASD:

  • Light
  • Sounds
  • Smells
  • Tastes
  • Touch
  • Proprioception or body awareness

It’s not uncommon for individuals with ASD to have a hyper-sensitivity to bright lights or some sounds or smells you might not give a second thought to. Whereas you may expect a deep touch to bother someone with ASD, you may be surprised to learn that even the brush of an autistic person’s skin may elicit a negative response from someone who has a hyper-sensitivity to touch.

Just like hyper-sensitivity to certain things are common among people with autism, so are hypo-sensitivities. A person with ASD may have a hypo-sensitivity to signals from their body that control their balance and coordination. If that’s the case, it may lead to clumsiness and awkward physical movements. People with hypo-sensitivities may also not respond as others would to pain.

Accommodations for People with Sensory Sensitivities

Fortunately, there are many ways to accommodate people who have hyper- or hypo-sensitivities. Dimming the lights and using incandescent instead of fluorescent lighting may be enough to appease someone has a hyper-sensitivity to light or particular light wavelengths, for example. Rearranged furniture may be all that someone with a hypo-sensitivity to signals regarding their physical coordination needs to navigate a given room capably.

How Occupational Therapy for Autism Can Help

If your child has ASD and sensory sensitivities related to the condition, occupational therapy for autism will likely help. As it relates to people with ASD, occupational therapy typically involves physical therapy that helps patients interpret and respond to sensory input better.

Occupational therapy for autism often helps people with ASD further develop the following kinds of skills: cognitive, physical, social and motor. The point of this kind of therapy is to markedly improve an autistic person’s ability to make sense of and react to sensory input in everyday situations.

Get the Help You Need at Judson Center

At Judson Center, we believe individuals with ASD and their families need a continuum of care that will allow all involved to live their very best lives, for themselves and together as a family. That’s why we offer proven applied behavioral analysis for those with ASD as well as support services for their family members, such as counseling, parent training sessions and “sibshops” for their brothers and sisters.

To learn more about the individual and family services we provide for kids diagnosed with ASD, contact Judson Center today.

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