Papercut and colored pencil art by Sheryl Aronson X 5

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Sensory Defensiveness

We experience and interact with our world through our senses. When the system is working properly, your body responds to sensations effectively and efficiently, without conscious effort.You automatically make adjustments to your position if you are in a rocking boat. You can tell how much pressure to use when buttering bread. For some people, this doesn't happen so smoothly. Some people are under responsive to sensory stimuli, others are overly responsive. Most people on the Autism spectrum have sensory processing problems, either under or over, and often a combination. I want to focus on sensory defensiveness, the over sensitivity and over reaction to sensations, which is not just in people with Autism.
I have a new job (I am an occupational therapist) with children in a school. Even though it is the end of the school year, I do have one child I am going to see for the last couple of weeks of the school year. He has some sensory defensiveness, and I have been reading up on it, to refresh my memory. I have made some interesting observations, and had some Aha moments.
As I sat here reading, my legs were bothering me. Besides the muscle tenderness and tendinitis issues, my skin was feeling irritated. As I was reading about sensory defensiveness, MY sensory defensiveness was reminding me that it was there. In Fibromyalgia, pain signals, which normally function to let us know something is wrong, get greatly magnified, as well as triggered for no apparent reason. People with Fibromyalgia have pain where there is no trauma; even the caress of a loved one may cause pain. My cat, sleeping against my leg sometimes causes pain. My small netbook computer hurts my legs when it sits in my lap without a pillow under it. Certain fabrics irritate, tags in clothing hurt.Wrinkles in the bed sheets, both under me and on top of me, cause discomfort.
Besides tactile issues, people with Fibro tend to be overly sensitive to other sensations: bright lights, loud noises, smells. I never thought about this similarity before between the sensitivities that people with Fibromyalgia have, and people on the Autism spectrum.I found the reading fascinating, as I related it to my experiences, comparing and contrasting. One big difference is that our bodies had a chance to learn to process and integrate the sensory signals in a "normal" way before the malfunction occurred. People who were born with or were very young when their sensory issues started have never known anything different, and may not even know that others function differently.
More on this at a later time.

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