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Autism and Sensory Differences


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Autism and Sensory Differences

  1. 1. The Basics of AutismSpectrum Disorders Training Series Regional Autism Advisory Council of Southwest Ohio (RAAC-SWO) Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders Task Force
  2. 2. Adult Training Series Modules Module One: Autism Defined, Autism Prevalence and Primary Characteristics Module Two: Physical Characteristics of Autism Module Three: Cognition and Learning in Autism Module Four: Autism and Sensory Differences Module Five: Communication and Autism
  3. 3. Adult Training Series Modules Module Six: Behavior Challenges and Autism Module Seven: Understanding Behavior in Persons with Autism Module Eight: Functional Behavior Assessment Module Nine: Autism and Leisure Skills to Teach Module Ten: Special Issues of Adolescence and Adulthood Module Eleven: Safety and Autism
  4. 4. Autism and Sensory Differences The brain needs sensory information to operate. It needs sound, vision, smell, taste, touch and movement. The way our brain organizes this information affects the way we learn and our behavior. People with ASD usually have differences in how they react to sensory input. They can be: Sensory Seekers Sensory Avoiders
  5. 5. Autism and Sensory Differences Possible difficulty with one or all sensory systems. A person’s reaction is not always the same. They can over react at one time and under react at another. Be a detective to figure out the reason for the reaction (ex. avoiding a certain food could be how the food feels, looks, smells, tastes or sounds when chewing).
  6. 6. Big IdeaSuspect sensory difficulties when the person’s behaviors seem“illogical” or “extreme”.
  7. 7. Reactions to Sounds Puts hands over ears Tries to escape from noises Becomes upset by sirens or other loud noises Hears sounds you do not even notice like buzz from a light. Or Makes sounds, like humming, to block out other sounds Seeks noises Does not respond to certain sounds or their name being called
  8. 8. Strategies for Sound Sensitivity Talk more softly and slow down. Use short direct sentences and do not chatter on and on. Don’t repeat what you just said, give time to think it through. Use soft music or other “good” sounds to block out “bad” sound (consider some thing like an iPOD). Have a quiet place where the person with ASD can go. Have sound blocking headphones available in places where you can’t avoid stressful sounds.
  9. 9. Strategies for Sound Sensitivity Know that unexpected sounds can be frightening. Be aware of crowd sounds. For example, you may need to help the person be ready for applause or help them move to a quieter area. Be aware of acoustics that may be irritating (theaters, gyms, churches, cafeterias). Make plans for possible behavior problems in these settings. Be ready in case an individual bolts from distressing sounds. Be prepared for dangerous situations such as traffic.
  10. 10. Big IdeaPrepare the person for what is going to happen. Anythingunexpected is more likely to be negative or scary.
  11. 11. Reactions to Visual Input Person with ASD may look off to the side. May be upset around bright lights or sunshine. May be upset around fluorescent lighting. May be upset in busy or cluttered places. Or May stare at bright lights or moving objects like fans. May seek bright colors and movement. May finger flick or spin objects in front of eyes.
  12. 12. Strategies for Visual Sensitivity Allow the person with ASD to use peripheral vision (look out the corner of their eyes). Do not insist on eye contact, but do require the person to look in your direction. Keep the environment as neutral as needed if the person gets over-stimulated. Consider keeping one wall or area more plain.
  13. 13. Strategies for Visual Sensitivity If possible, do not use fluorescent lights. Do not hold instructional materials close to your face. It may be difficult for the person with ASD to concentrate on two things at the same time. For those seeking visual input, look for appropriate activities (i.e. kaleidoscope, fish tank).
  14. 14. Strategies for Visual Seekers Provide visually interesting materials for leisure time. Use visual schedules, calendars and lists Use photo albums to talk about family or past events
  15. 15. Reactions to Smells Avoids cooking smells. Gets upset around noticeable smells, such as cleaning smells. Breathes through mouth. Covers nose. Or Seeks strong aromas. Sniffs objects and people. Holds things up to nose.
  16. 16. Reactions to Smells For a person with a strong reaction to smells, any environment can be too much. Smells may be the cause of behaviors. Human odors may be a problem. The person may be uncomfortable with the smell of their own urine and bowel movements. This may explain why some individuals put off going to the bathroom as long as possible.
  17. 17. Reactions to Smells What is a good smell to one person can be an unpleasant smell for another person. Strong food smells may affect behavior. Certain petroleum products such as diesel engines may cause problems. Cleaning odors, room deodorizers, scented lotions or soaps can all change behavior.
  18. 18. Reactions to Smells People with ASD may continue to be bothered by the smell after others would have gotten used to the smell and no longer be bothered. This may be why changing environments is so difficult for some individuals with ASD.
  19. 19. Strategies for Smell Sensitivity Try not to use scented products. Keep the environment clean and dry. If something smells bad to us, it is likely that it smells even worse to the person with ASD.
  20. 20. Strategies for a Smell Sensitivity If you smell something unpleasant, let the person know that you smell it too. It may be reassuring for the individual to know that they aren’t the only one affected by the odor. Sometimes you can cover up an unavoidable bad smell with a positive smell on a handkerchief or with a food item such as a tic tac.
  21. 21. Strategies for a Smell Seeker Some people may seek smells. For them a variety of scents may be helpful. Examples: lotions, spices, air fresheners. Scents can be used to help people with ASD be more alert or calm down. A good scent can be added to an activity such as scented markers or pencils when drawing.
  22. 22. Reactions to Taste The person with ASD eats only a few kinds of food. They may prefer bland foods. They may prefer keeping foods separated not mixed. Therefore they may not like food such as casseroles. Or They may prefer strong flavors and spices. They may like to dip food in sauces. They may lick or chew non-food items.
  23. 23. Strategies for Sensitivity to Taste Try to know what foods that the person likes. Don’t force the person to eat food they do not like. Offer a variety of foods. Think about how smells in the room may make it hard to eat, even if the food tastes okay.
  24. 24. Strategies for a Taste Seeker Know what spices and sauces can be used to increase taste. Think about the texture or temperature of favorite foods (for example-crunchy, cold, hot). Watch what the person puts into their mouth for safety and cleanliness. Sometimes a person with ASD cannot tell when food is too hot. Make sure food or drink is not too hot.
  25. 25. Reactions to Touch The person with ASD may not like to be touched. They may strike out or withdraw when touched unexpectedly. They may have problems with hair cuts, combing hair. They may dislike getting hands dirty. Or The person with ASD may not feel pain easily. They may seek out rough surfaces. They may put non-food items in their mouth or lick them.
  26. 26. Strategies for Sensitivity to Touch Give the person space. Don’t touch the person without warning them that you are going to touch them. Firm but gentle touch is often better than light touch.
  27. 27. Strategies for Sensitivity to Touch Never tickle the person with ASD, even if they laugh. It may be helpful to wash new clothes before they wear them to make the clothes softer. Be aware that problems can be caused by new shoes, textured socks, or tags in clothes.
  28. 28. Reactions to Movement The person with ASD may be scared when balance is needed, like going down stairs or when walking on uneven ground. They may avoid physical activity, preferring to sit. Or The person may jump, bounce, pace, rock, twirl. They may be more active than others.
  29. 29. Strategies for Movement Sensitivity Let the person know that you understand it is scary and you are there to help. Give extra support if needed. If possible, do not push the person with ASD to try something when they are afraid. You may need to practice the activity with them when they are calm. Expect the person to run off if you are putting them into a situation that is scary to them.
  30. 30. Big Idea Offer a variety of sensoryexperiences but do not force the person to participate if theperson is uncomfortable or seems afraid.
  31. 31. Strategies for a Movement Seeker Provide opportunities for the person with ASD to move around, clearing space in living areas as needed. Give movement breaks during a task. Choose chores that give movement and physical work as part of the task. Provide opportunities for exercise with an understanding of any physical limitations. Challenging behaviors can happen if the person is not getting enough movement.
  32. 32. Big IdeaPrepare the person for what is going to happen. Anythingunexpected is more likely to be negative or scary.