Sensory Sensitivities – Archie's Experience
Everyone’s sensory needs are different, for example, Archie’s sensory processing differences mean that he struggles with loud noises.
He said: “I don't like loud noises, especially sudden loud noises…That start off quiet and progressively get louder and louder.”
This increased sensitivity to noise, where sounds are amplified, can cause extreme distress and anxiety. It can startle individuals and drive them to cover their ears, attempt to stop the source of the noise, or run away to escape the environment completely.
Schools, workplaces, and other public settings can be difficult to navigate due to their unpredictable and noisy nature, which quickly becomes overwhelming.
To minimise the risks, some individuals use ear defenders and other coping strategies to manage the sensory input. Archie has his own little earbuds that help him cope in loud environments by reducing the impact of the noise.
Fire drills that come with no warning can be especially challenging, which Archie experienced in his previous school.
He said: “So when it did go off, I just got quite scared and I either just hid under a table and didn't leave, or I just ran out the nearest door just because I hated it.”
A common misconception is that autistic people are ‘overreacting’ in their response to certain sensory input – but this is not true. For those with sound sensitivities, the intensity of the noise can be all-consuming and downright painful, instigating a strong reaction which is out of their control.
He continued: “If you see someone that you think might be overreacting to something, it is probably not overreacting. They probably either just don't like it or associate something bad with it.”
When you see someone covering their ears when a plane takes off, or being startled at the sight of a fly, try to withhold judgement and consider their perspective. Each person is unique and experiences the world differently. By learning about sensory differences, we can increase our understanding and find ways to show support.