Friday, March 20, 2009

Sensory problems

Sights and Sounds
People with Asperger’s Syndrome often have to deal with extreme sensitivities to everyday sights, sounds, smells and touch.This sensitivity is not one of their "official symptoms" as described in the Physician's Desk Reference doctors use for diagnoses. However, there are thousands of parent and therapist's anecdotes about this condition. Some experts believe that while sensitivity may cause AS children to tantrum and "act out" in the first place, after a while such behaviors become learned. They hold on to them because of the rigidity of their personalities. Nevertheless, certain studies indicate that between 42% and 88% of people with Asperger’s Syndrome do experience such sensitivities.Hearing problems. Some AS children seem to hear sounds others do not. They can be driven to distraction by noises everyone else filters out, such as the buzz of fluorescent lights, the tick of a clock or the brush of corduroy against a desk. The inability to filter out background noises makes it hard for many AS children to follow conversations or listen to their teachers' directions.Some sounds seem actually painful to children with Asperger’s. This is one of the things that seem to stand out with Will. For example, the sound of the vacuum cleaner, a police siren, the fire drill or just the noise from the lunch room is enough to cause him to be very uncomfortable and even enough to cause a meltdown Auditory sensitivity makes it hard for us to take him noisy places like ball games or concerts, etc without proper ear protection to muffle the sounds.
Taste and Smell. Many experts conclude that AS children rely more on their senses of smell and taste than sight and hearing. They have strong memories of smells; for example, they may be able to recognize people by their unique body odors.Certain smells like food, cleaning fluids, perfumes, shampoos and lotions can make them nauseous. This sometimes makes it hard for them to handle routine places like the school cafeteria, laundry detergent aisle at the grocery store or shopping mall cosmetic counter.An AS child’s acute sense of smell and taste may also create eating problems. They may limit their selves to certain foods, eat one food at a time, certain color foods, not allow foods to touch on their plate, and so forth. With Will this comes and goes to some extent. For two years he wouldn’t touch anything green. However, certain textures in his mouth can cause him to vomit. Many AS children even vomit easily. Everyday substances like toothpaste can make them sick to their stomachs.Touch. AS children may be overly or under-sensitive to touch. Will seems to be overly sensitive only to clothes. This is the only thing that we have found that disturbs him. He finds tags on clothing very irritating. He will only wear certain fabrics or clothes that are old and soft from washings. He does not like to wear new clothes because of it. Visual problems. Perhaps only one in five persons with Asperger’s Syndrome has them. Will is one of these. Some AS children get upset by certain pictures, colors or bright lights. Will has a horrible aversion to bright lights. This is real and severe for him. To the point we have to take sunglasses with us to the dentist’s office and a trip to the eye doctor is excruciating for him.
He will often stand too close to others or stare at them inappropriately. This is because he is committing to memory every detail of this person. This is actually, in his own way, a compliment. It means that he likes you enough to want to remember you.
He can search for an object and not notice that it is right in front of him. This is very typical for AS children.
Most AS children, including Will, have problems making eye contact with other people.Proprioceptive and Vestibular disorders. These are about orienting yourself in space, keeping your body in balance and maintaining good posture and movement.
In normal people, a complex network of nerves works together with the senses naturally. You can sit down without looking at your chair. You know where your feet are. You know how to straighten your shirt without looking into a mirror. AS children have problems with such abilities that operate on the unconscious level for normal people. This makes simple activities such as climbing stairs feats that must be learned.
Activities that involve complex movements, changes in speed and hand-eye coordination such as handwriting or playing baseball become nightmares for many AS children, but can be learned to the point of being almost unnoticeable of having ever had a problem. AS children may never be professional athletes but are more than able to enjoy sports if they so choose. Please check out the link I have posted for ASD athletes. This a charity that my dear frien Jen Higgins and her husband have started. It is a great organization that sponsers children on the spectrum in athletics. I think it is an awsome idea and I ask that you all be sure to go see what they are all about. They are based in Knoxville, Tenn.

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