What Does Sensory Autism Mean?
What does sensory autism mean? Sensory disorder is commonly associated with autism. But, it is important to know that sensory and autism are not the same thing. In addition, sensory autism is not a type of autism.
This article explains more about sensory and autism. In particular, how they overlap. It is important to understand why sensory links with autism. Notwithstanding, how they are different.
To Understand Sensory Autism, it is Helpful to Understand Autism
In health care and medicine, autism is a developmental disorder. A developmental disorder presents from early childhood. Moreover, it presents even in babies. Developmental, is this context, means how a person grows or develops. In addition, disorder means there is a set of problems that cause difficulty in daily life. Therefore, a developmental disorder is one that is present from a young age. It also causes lifelong difficulties in daily life.
Autism is present from a young age. However, signs and symptoms may not initially be visual. They emerge as a baby grows. Autism is also life-long. Hence, it is not something a child ‘grows out of’. Moreover, autism causes difficulties in daily life. Specifically, one of those difficulties can be with the senses. Thus, you see and hear the words sensory autism.
Autism, autistic, neurodiverse
Autism is confusing. There is a lot to learn. Furthermore, the words that describe autism are now changed. This is because we learn more about autism in health and medicine every day. Importantly, autistic people share words that are meaningful. And how they describe themselves. For example, with the word neurodiversity. People with autism are neurodiverse. Neuro means brain. Diverse means different. So neurodiverse means different brains. Moreover, people with autism often describe people who do not have autism or another developmental disorder as neurotypical.
Symptoms of Autism Cause Difficulty in Daily Life
Language and communication
Autism causes difficulties with social communication and social interaction. For example, social means relating to other people. In addition, people with autism may have difficulty relating to other people. This includes verbal communication. It also includes non-verbal communication with other people. Finally, they may have difficulty to understand and to be understood by other people.
You may have seen and heard the term non-verbal autism. For some people with autism, they are non-verbal. In this instance, it means they do not speak or they speak very little. This does not mean they do not understand.
On the other hand for some people with autism, their speech is delayed. That does not mean they are non-verbal. However, it means they develop the ability to speak later than other children.
Non-verbal autism is not a type of autism. It describes people with autism who do not communicate by speech. Nonetheless, that does not mean they do not understand. Critically, people with non-verbal autism may understand everything. Furthermore, it does not mean they do not communicate. For example, they may use a different way of communicating. Like sign language. Other examples are a picture exchange communication system. Typing on a keyboard. Writing. Text-to-speech software. Or a special mobile app.
Behavior and interests
Autism also causes difficulty with behavior, interests, and activities. Subsequently, this affects how a person with autism acts. Especially how they act with other people. For example, you might see or hear the words autistic behavior. Meaning people with autism may behave differently. Moreover, people with autism may have difficulty with a change in routine. For instance, they may repeat things or repetitive tasks. In addition, they may be pre-occupied with certain things or topics. Finally, they may have sensory issues. The latter is why you see or hear things about sensory autism.
Symptoms of autism range in severity. Furthermore, some people with autism have more difficulty with some aspects of daily life. On the other hand, some people have less difficulty. In conclusion, every person with autism is unique. Just like everyone else.
Types of Autism
Autism used to be divided into different types. However, autism is now called autism spectrum disorder. Furthermore, all the types are together. Autism and autism spectrum disorder are used interchangeably. Spectrum means that there is a range. Again, some people are more affected by autism. On the other hand, some people are less affected by autism. Although people with autism have many things in common too. Moreover, just like everyone else, each person with autism is unique.
Autism used to be divided into different types: autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder, or pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and childhood disintegrative disorder. Now, they are grouped together into autism spectrum disorder.
Old words used to describe autism
To help with all of the vocabularies that you might see and hear, these are many of the words used in the past to describe autism
- Autistic disorder, autism, childhood autism, early infantile autism, Kanner’s syndrome, infantile psychosis.
- Asperger’s, Asperger syndrome, Asperger Disorder, High functioning autism
- Pervasive Developmental Disorder (Not Otherwise Specified) sometimes abbreviated to PDD (NOS) also called atypical autism.
- Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, also known as Heller’s syndrome, disintegrative psychosis, regressive autism.
Is Rett’s Disorder related to autism? No, it is not. It was grouped with autism in the past. But no longer. Therefore, Rett’s Disorder is separate and distinct from autism.
To Summarize: What You Need to Know About the Types of Autism
- Autism is now called autism spectrum disorder.
- Spectrum means that there is a range of difficulties or severity caused by autism.
- Autism is no longer divided into types.
- Disorder means that the difficulties caused by autism happen in daily life.
- Autism has a range of severity. While some people are more affected by it, in contrast, other people are less affected by it.
Sensory Autism is Not a Type of Autism
There are no longer types of autism. Furthermore, sensory autism was never one of the types. Autism is a range, called a spectrum disorder. Nonetheless, it is important to know that sensory differences are often part of autism. In fact, the diagnostic criteria for autism include mention of two sensory impairments. Specifically, hypersensitivity and hyposensitivity. However, not all people with autism have one of these two types of sensory issues. In addition, sensory issues are more complex than just these two. So, let’s dive into sensory autism.
As with autism, there are many different words to describe sensory. Furthermore, there are more than five senses. Those five senses are what you see, hear, taste, touch, and smell. However, you have more than five senses. You sense of movement (called proprioception). In addition, your sense of balance (called your vestibular sense). Finally, you have the eighth sense, interoception. Interoception is your sense of internal organs. Examples are hunger, thirst, or the need to go to the bathroom.
Sensory Autism Definitions
- Over-responsive, responds too much to sensory input. i.e. jerks away from a pat on the back.
- Under-responsive, responds too little to sensory input. i.e. is not aware of bumping into something.
- Avoids sensory input or experiences. i.e. someone who does not like noisy, busy, bright places.
- The brain has difficulty in daily life. It does not receive information from the senses well. Nor does it interpret or respond to the senses well.
- Craves sensory input or experiences. Seeks out sensory-rich environments.
- Also called sensory defensiveness. Avoids certain sensory input. Has a negative reaction to some senses or sensory input.
- Similar to challenges. The brain has difficulty in daily life. It does not receive information from the senses well. Nor does it interpret or respond to the senses well.
- The ability to tell the difference between one sense and another, and within one sense. e.g., know if something is smooth or rough by touch.
- Like sensory processing disorder or sensory integration disorder, the brain has difficulty in daily life. Sensory processing disorder is often shortened in layman’s terms to sensory disorder. There are several different types of sensory disorders. They include sensory modulation, sensory-motor, and sensory discrimination.
- Describes a place or event where noise levels are less. In addition, bright lights are less. Moreover, a sensory-friendly environment is generally more comfortable. In particular for people with sensory issues. Also interchanged with the phrases sensory relaxed and sensory inclusive.
Help with the challenge of sensory autism
Find sensory-friendly events, places, and services in your daily life in the Sensory-Friendly Finder.
Key Points to Remember About Sensory and Autism
- Sensory autism is not a type of autism.
- There are no longer types of autism.
- Autism is a range or spectrum disorder.
- Hypersensitivity or hyposensitivity may be included.
- Autism may include a sensory disorder.
- But, sensory disorders include more than hypersensitivity or hyposensitivity.
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Christel Seeberger has been an occupational therapist for more than 25 years, helping people of all ages who experience sensory sensitivity and sensory overload. Christel understands how sensitivity and overload feel, she has hearing loss and wears hearing aids. Christel founded Sensory Friendly Solutions in 2016 to bring together people around the world looking for sensory-friendly living and the individuals, businesses and organizations who create sensory friendly experiences.