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As an individual with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, I experience sensory differences. These sensory differences can and often do impact my day-to-day life. One important thing to remember is that I have always had these sensory differences or challenges, therefore, I do not know what life would be like if I did not have them. I do not know what a typical individual hears, therefore, I do not know if I hear any differently than they do. These sensory differences can be hard for me to describe sometimes. My sensory issues have changed over time and have become more bearable. I have learned how to cope by making certain accommodations for myself when needed.

Clothing
When I was younger there was a period of time when I would only wear leggings or sweat pants. I would not wear jeans or any other type of pant because I did not like the way the jeans felt. I remember when layering started to be the cool thing to do, but I had trouble doing it for the longest time. I have some cute, nice shirts but often times I just wear graphic tee shirts because I find them to be more comfortable. Here are two tips for selecting clothes.

  • Feel each piece of clothing before you buy it to see if the way it feels is acceptable to your senses.
  • Sweaters may be hard to wear, because they can be itchy and intolerable.

Sitting in Class
Something as simple as sitting in a chair and being still can be hard for me sometimes. I used to have a hard time knowing where my body was in relation to everything else in space.

  • If you crave movement, take frequent movement breaks in order to be able to function at your best.

Attending School Assemblies
Loud and unexpected noises, such as loud rain on a metal roof, a horn honking loudly when I am least expecting it, drums etc., can be real bothersome. I remember sitting in school assemblies back when I was in elementary school; it felt so uncomfortable. There were times I felt as if my whole body was shaking from all of the noise. Here are some things that worked for me.

  • If you are younger, perhaps in elementary school, sit outside the gym so that you can still hear the assembly  without it being so loud.
  • As you get older, sit somewhere in the gym where you can leave easily if needed.
  • Knowing what the assembly is about can help prep you. Perhaps there is a teacher that can provide a summary prior to the assembly.
  • Wear ear plugs or noise reducing headphones to make things more tolerable.
  • Having a sensory fidget may help you tolerate the noise.
  • Enter the assembly, find a seat, and get adjusted before the other students enter.

Sleeping
Another area that my sensory issues have caused me problems is sleeping. Sometimes it is hard for me to tolerate any blanket at all, yet I need to be covered with a blanket in order to sleep. This can prove to be very challenging and frustrating. Sometimes I wake up during the night and switch blankets, or turn a TV or fan off or back on. Sometimes I wake up and have a hard time falling back asleep. Here some things that have worked for me.

  • Sleeping with a layer of blankets can provide deep pressure input and be comforting and soothing.
  • A different texture of a blanket can also be helpful, so have one easily available.
  • Noise in the background, such as the TV, a portable fan, or the ceiling fan may help you fall asleep.

Summary
Message to parents and teachers:

Do not give up! Help your child with sensory differences, the differences that they feel are very real to them. I have found therapy and tools such as a [easyazon-link asin=”B007HBLJBY” locale=”us”]weighted blanket[/easyazon-link] (see Dreamcatcher™ Weighted Blankets: Dream Come True for more information), [easyazon-link asin=”B003JDJGO6″ locale=”us”]weighted vest[/easyazon-link], [easyazon-link asin=”B0049TMRSQ” locale=”us”]deep pressure vest[/easyazon-link], movement breaks, [easyazon-link asin=”B004STUWAW” locale=”us”]noise cancelling headphones[/easyazon-link], [easyazon-link asin=”B0095HRRNM” locale=”us”]weighted lap pads[/easyazon-link] (see Paddy the Weighted Platypus for a detailed description), and [easyazon-link asin=”B001YK1QXK” locale=”us”]sensory fidgets[/easyazon-link] to be very effective. Getting used to and being able to cope with one’s own sensory differences takes time, it took me many years. I am still learning new things each and every day.

Resources

[easyazon-link asin=”1934575216″ locale=”us”]My Sensory Book: Working Together to Explore Sensory Issues and the Big Feelings They Can Cause: A Workbook for Parents, Professionals, and Children[/easyazon-link] by Lauren H. Kerstein

[easyazon-link asin=”1934575836″ locale=”us”]A Buffet of Sensory Interventions: Solutions for Middle and High School Students With Autism Spectrum Disorders[/easyazon-link] by Susan L. Culp MS, OTR/L

[easyazon-link asin=”0143115340″ locale=”us”]Raising a Sensory Smart Child: The Definitive Handbook for Helping Your Child with SensoryProcessing Issues[/easyazon-link] by Lindsey Biel and Nancy Peske