How Different Senses Affect Day to Day Living
From the moment we wake up to the moment we go to sleep we are constantly using our senses. Everything we do relies on at least one of our senses. There are five basic senses: vision, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. I cannot name a single thing that does not rely on at least one if our senses. When one sense is damaged the other senses tend to work harder to compensate.
Even something as simple as walking uses multiple senses. It uses vision, hearing, and touch. You need to see where you are going, feel where your feet and hearing to help you figure out where in space you are.
Let's break down the different senses. Starting vision it is an ability to see and visualize your world. You use your vision constantly. Then we have touch. No matter where you are you are always touching something. Your body touching the bed, or your feet on the ground. Even the air touching them can be too much. Now we have taste. Everything you out in your mouth will affect your taste buds. They perceive whether something is sweet, sour, bitter, spicy, and so on. Hearing is an ability to listen to the world around you and take in all the sounds. The world is full of sounds: people talking, animals, music, vehicles and machines, even the wind makes sounds. Smell is the last one. Almost everything has a smell. Some smells can be very strong and overpowering to hardkey smell at all
So what does all of this mean for people with autism or sensory processing disorder? People with autism or SPD are often overwhelmed or underwhelmed by their senses. Most people do not mind the feeling of grass on their feet. For some it can be extremely painful. For most bright lights are okay, but some with autism cannot handle bright lights. Autism can make simple sensory things just way too much for kids like ours.
When these sensory experiences become too much it is often when we see a meltdown. Their meltdown is often a response to becoming very overwhelmed. They just cannot handle everything coming at them once. Remember you cannot just turn off one of your senses. You cannot close your eyes and shut out the rest of the world.
So how do we help our children navigate this loud, rough, smelly, bright, and sometimes overwhelming tasting world. We can limit what they are exposed to buy honestly what kind of life is that? So we end up with playing the role of buffer for them. We give them sunglasses and noise canceling headphones. We watch them eat a very limited diet. And in my case we watch our child gag everything a smell overwhelms her.
So what as parents can we do to help then? My first suggestion is to make a list of of known things that overwhelming then. I suggest sharing this list with their therapists and educational team. Ask their therapists to help them work on desensitise the child. Work with the teacher on avoiding or learning coping skills. And as the parent you can work on adjusting slowly ot help you children cope in this very overwhelming world.
By working on learning to cope with their senses you will make their lives so much easier. You will see less meltdowns, better sleep habits, better eating habits, and maybe even more social interactions. Remember hugs can be painful for some of our kids do by taking away the expectation to hug people you make it easier on them to socialize.
Going through this is extremely difficult. But remember if it is hard on you it is extremely difficult for your child. But by putting in a little work you will be able to better everyone's quality of life.