Sensory Sensitivities and Autism.

It is common for autistic children and young people to experience some sensory sensitivities.

Sensory sensitivities can present in many forms and can sometimes impact on day to day function. When speaking about sensory sensitivities, a lot of people associate this with difficulties around loud noises but other senses can be affected too.

Little boy with ear defenders

"Processing everyday sensory information can be difficult for autistic people. Any of their senses may be over- or under-sensitive, or both, at different times. These sensory differences can affect how they feel and act, and can have a profound effect on a person’s life." (Oct-2023)

What is the difference between Hyper and Hypo ?

Some people may be Hypersensitive (over sensitive) whilst others may by Hyposensitive (Under sensitive)

Hypersensitive (avoiders):

Individuals respond more easily to sensory stimuli, so are more aware of sensations and will avoid these experiences (e.g., will not try new food, avoid noisy situations, avoid busy environments)

Hyposensitive (poor registration):

Individuals don’t notice sensory stimuli, will appear to ignore sensations (e.g., not noticing if their face is messy, not reacting to verbal instruction).

Autism and the 8 senses

When we think about the human senses, we often think about sight, smell, hearing, touch and taste. There are also additional senses including vestibular (sense of balance), proprioception (body awareness) and interoception (internal body awareness). You can read more about sensory differences by using the link below.

Sensory Overload

A short video by the National Autistic Society aimed to show what sensory overload may look like from an autism point of view.

Remote video URL

Support and Advice

Where to access support and information

Barnsley Children’s Occupational Therapy Service provides advice regarding sensory concerns via a sensory workshop. The workshop has been developed to provide information on sensory processing alongside advice & strategies for families (& schools) to implement. Access to the sensory workshop and supporting leaflets can be found on their website. The team ask for you to contact them prior to accessing the workshop to access additional paperwork.

Children's OT: Sensory Workshop

There is also a school specific sensory workshop which is accessible via education’s POD training system.

Recommended reading

Listening to my body
By Gabi Garcia | ISBN: 099895800x

Sensory Activities for Autism
By Mary McPhee | ISBN: 0995157669

Sensory: Life on the spectrum: An Autistic Comics Anthology
by Bex Ollerton | ISBN: 1524874760

Sensory Processing 101
By Dayna Abraham Et al | 0692518363

Sensory Parenting for Sensory Children
By Tanya Van Dalen | ISBN: 1839972548

Sensory Seeking Sloth
by Jennifer Jones 

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  • Page last reviewed: 8 January 2024
  • Next review due: 6 January 2025