Living with autism and 7 senses

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Tuesday, October 5, 2010


AUTISM is a developmental disorder characterized by a triad of symptoms - difficulty with language, emotions, and basic problem-solving. Instead of just five senses - taste, touch, smell, hearing, sight, an autistic child has either over-active senses (hypersensitive) or under-active senses (hyposensitive), plus two other senses, proprioception and vestibular.

The hypersensitive avoid situations, activities, or behavior. The hyposensitive constantly seek or crave things.

Taste - Having an overly sensitive sense of taste impacts on nutrition as you exclude food from your child’s diet because of the way he perceives them to taste.

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Touch - Your child experiences cold, heat, pressure, and may respond to the slightest touch. He may scream, run away from you, or shut down when you touch him. A light touch on the arm feels like a punch. Or he can’t perceive any touch. He doesn’t cry when he falls so he has a high pain tolerance. He plays rough and bumps into things.

Hearing - With an overly sensitive auditory system, sounds are painful for autistic children. He covers his ears at sounds that don’t bother you. Other kids like it loud. He likes to listen to TV on the highest volume setting. Normal levels of sound and whispering, are not ‘heard’.

Sight – He sees everything in technicolor. He is overwhelmed by lights, sunlight or bulbs and can’t maintain eye contact with others. Or he has a hard time tracking objects, letters or numbers. He focuses on small details. Have a simple vision test to determine if he needs glasses. If he can see well and is still having problems with this - he may have sensory dysfunction.

Smell - Smell can overwhelm and he may refuse to eat certain foods or refuse to go certain places. Or he is completely unaffected by unpleasant smells. He may go out of his way to smell things or people. He may not be able to identify things based on smell.

Proprioception - This refers to the way your body communicates with your joints, tendons, & muscles. You know when you have bent down, where you are in the space around you. You can close your eyes & bend your arm & know where it is. He may bump into furniture & be seen as clumsy or uncoordinated. Or he tends to jump to create ‘input’ to their joints & muscles, likes big hugs.

Vestibular - Refers to a person’s sense of balance & movement. If you have an ear infection you are aware of your vestibular system. Parts of the human ear tell the brain a person is standing up, upside down, or on his side. He may fear heights, movement, & may not do well with an uneven surface. He keeps his feet on the ground. Or he spins in circles, & doesn’t get dizzy. He is on the move, never gets tired, likes to be thrown, & can’t even sit - he bounces feet, legs, or taps hands or fingers when trying to sit still.

Know more about living with autism at A Child’s DREAM Foundation, Inc. Baguio’s 1st therapy center for special children. Text 0917-8119032. Email info@achildsdream.ph Visit www.achildsdream.ph.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on October 06, 2010.

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