Sensory Sensitivities – Lucas’ Experience
Autistic people may experience sensory differences, which can include being over-sensitive or under-sensitive to specific sights, sounds, smells or textures. They might take in too much or too little sensory information from their environments and this can be difficult to manage.
For example, Lucas processes textures and sounds differently, which can make some everyday situations a challenge.
Some individuals might have a strong aversion to some textures and a preference for others. Lucas shared his texture of choice, saying: “I mainly like smooth textures. It’s like it feels better than rougher things.”
Individuals may seek out specific sensations as a source of comfort, whilst avoiding others that are painful and irritating, such as clothing labels.
Sound sensitivities are another common characteristic amongst many autistic people. For Lucas, loud noises can be intense and overwhelming due to sensory processing differences. Certain sounds might be magnified and distorted, causing a great deal of distress and anxiety.
This hypersensitivity to sound can make events like fire drills a painful and frightening experience. At his previous school, fire alarms proved difficult, and in an effort to escape the intense stimuli, Lucas would cover his ears and hide under a table.
In his experience, taking yourself out of situations when they become too loud is helpful. For instance, when it gets too much in class, leaving the room and walking around for a while puts him at ease.
Sometimes, he will mask his sensory sensitivities and emotions so that other people don’t feel uncomfortable. However, this can be tough to control at times.
He said: “There are some times where it bursts out unnecessarily against my will, like I can’t control it sometimes. But at the end of the day, when people mask, it’s because people are scared of what others might think.”
There is still a lack of education and understanding of sensory sensitivities and their impact, and as a result, individuals like Lucas feel compelled to conceal their traits to avoid negative judgements. Not to mention, masking itself can be harmful, leading to exhaustion and burnout when prolonged.
He continued: “I think people should be using masking with caution because over time it just starts eating you and you want to do it all the time and you don’t want people to know how you really feel. It’s like you’re drowning and you can’t escape.”
To make things more manageable for those with sensory sensitivities, Lucas suggests making sure everyone is comfortable in their environment and that nothing is too loud. Simply being more considerate, implementing reasonable adjustments, and showing empathy can make a huge difference.
“Spread kindness, make people feel better. That’s what I try to do every day. See each day as a new day. Everyone is worth so much more than they know.”