Friday, 21 June 2013

Guest Blog from Janet Carter - Autism Life Resources Part 2

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Our Guest Blogger today is Janet Carter from Autism Life Resources.  



Autism Life Resources was established by Janet Carter, as a result of a lifetime of experience with Autism, and over 25 years professional experience working in the NHS.   Janet is a true ambassador of the positive attributes of Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD), at the same time she's well aware of the potential negative impacts, including stress for the person with Autism, as well as their friends, family, colleagues and peer group.  




About Autism PART 2


Hypersensitive Senses
Hypersensitive hearing can be a challenge when someone can hear what is being said in a conversation taking place in another street and thinks that it is about them.  It can also be quite overwhelming to have hypersensitive hearing and not be able to 'switch off' noises that can be driving the hearer to distraction such as rustling paper or the hum of a florescent light or a ticking clock. A loud noise can overwhelm the senses and cause them to go into a temporary overload which could result in a 'freezing' or a stumbling or falling over.


Sight
The sense of sight can be affected by strobes, lasers, bright lights or even sunshine causing pain or startling and or stumbling or falling. Many and complex disturbances of the sense of sight can be experienced. Dyspraxia can also be experienced, as can Dyslexia.

Smell
The sense of smell can be hypersensitive and become overwhelmed by the slightest smell, or hypo-sensitive and not available to give helpful or vital information such as not registering body odours or being able to detect food that has gone off, or smoke from a fire close-by.

Sight
The sense of sight can be affected by strobes, lasers, bright lights or even sunshine causing pain or startling and or stumbling or falling. Many and complex disturbances of the sense of sight can be experienced. Dyspraxia can also be experienced, as can Dyslexia.

The sense of smell can be hypersensitive and become overwhelmed by the slightest smell, or hypo-sensitive and not available to give helpful or vital information such as not registering body odours or being able to detect food that has gone off, or smoke from a fire close-by.

The sense of taste can be similarly hyper or hypo-sensitive and some children and adults with Asperger's Syndrome can be very picky eaters or can be fixated on eating one particular food exclusively for a period of time only to suddenly go off it and not like it any more.

Many people with Autism may experience  intolerances of different foods, such as Gluten and Casein intolerance – which is the lack of the enzyme to convert the protein in Gluten and or Casein into something that the body can use as nourishment and rather the body converts these proteins into an opiate like substance.

Many people with Autism have IBS and other digestion problems which make sense when looked at in the context of Stress.

Autism can make it difficult to deal with sense of touch

Touch
In my family I have found animal therapy to be most useful, on a daily basis, for tactile stimulation, stress release and even for responsibility and self esteem building.
The skin is our largest organ and as such has a much greater area to potentially cause distress. Therefore consideration to anything that is put on the skin is helpful, such as soaps, creams, washing powder, etc. to not cause irritation.

Fabrics are very important for how they feel and breathe and sound in addition to how they wash, and in my experience the more natural the fibre the less distressing reaction my children had to it. I remember as an infant I put my daughter in a baby-grow that had polyester in it and she went bright red and howled. When I changed her into 100% cotton she was calm. This taught me to look carefully at the fibre composition of anything coming in contact with my children's skin.

Emotions
The expression and experience of emotions and feelings can be overwhelming, hypersensitive and hypo-sensitive. In the evolution of our human brain the logic of thought and reason developed after emotions. For someone who thinks logically, concretely, in black and white, the concept of feelings and emotions with their unpredictability and difficulty to interpret and control can be very frightening

When any of the senses are disrupted this can be very stressful and a person may not be able to interpret the emotion or feeling that they are experiencing and this can lead to a tantrum or meltdown. This in turn is not helpful, nor is it good for self esteem.


Situations
Because of so many hypersensitivities, certain situations can prove very difficult. A large crowd can be overwhelming for so many reasons – the noise factor, so many conversations going on that it is impossible to track them – or to determine which are the ones you should be tracking – and trying to filter out all the different voices and noises that you can hear. Loud music can be overwhelming, and a concert or night club that combines crowds and loud music and light effects can be far too much to bear.


Hearing
The sense of touch or tactile may be the most obvious of sensory difficulties when a person with Autism cannot bear to be touched or hugged or held or even brushed against in passing in a corridor the sensation can be overwhelming. Sometimes there are just areas, like a part of the arm for example, where touch is unbearable. Conversly some people really like the feel of something tight around them - Dr Temple Grandin says how she like the feel of the cattle squeeze and this experience led her to become the most respected designers of humane farm animal equipment in the USA in addition to her fame as an author and speaker on Autism.
Sometimes corsets can be a helpful garment to get that feeling of being hugged, and there are specially designed vests and sweatshirts that inflate to give a hugging sensation.





Janet has published an ebook which you can view here

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