Sensory Differences Explained

Autism and Sensory Differences

Autism and Sensory Differences

Many people who are on the Autism spectrum have difficulty processing everyday sensory information. Any of the senses may be over- or under-sensitive, or both, and at different times. These sensory differences can affect behaviour and can have a profound effect on a person’s life.

I have written about SPD before ( But I want to take a more in depth look at how each of our senses can be triggered as well as looking at some of the effects of hypersensitivity or hyposensitivity to sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touch, balance and body awareness.



Objects appear quite dark or lose some of their features.

Central vision is blurred but peripheral vision quite sharp.

A central object is magnified but things on the periphery are blurred.

Poor depth perception, problems with throwing and catching, clumsiness


Distorted vision – objects and bright lights can appear to jump around.

Images may fragment.

Easier and more pleasurable to focus on a detail rather than the whole object.

Has difficulty getting to sleep as sensitive to the light.



May only hear sounds in one ear, the other ear having only partial hearing or in some cases they don’t hear any sound at all. I have written about APD (Auditory Processing Disorder) (

May not acknowledge or hear particular sounds.

Might enjoy crowded, noisy places or bang doors and objects.


Noise can often be magnified, and sounds become distorted and muddled.

May be able to hear conversations in the distance.

Inability to cut/block out sounds – most notably background noises, leading to difficulties concentrating.



Some people have no sense of smell and fail to notice extreme odours (this can include their own body odour).

Some people may lick things to get a better sense of what they are.


Smells can be intense and overpowering. This can cause toileting problems.

Dislikes people with distinctive perfumes, shampoos, etc.



Likes very spicy foods.

Eats or mouths non-edible items such as stones, dirt, soil, grass, metal.


Finds some flavours and foods too strong and overpowering because of very sensitive taste buds. Has a restricted diet.

Certain textures cause discomfort – may only eat smooth foods like mashed potatoes or ice-cream.

Some Autistic people may limit themselves to bland foods or crave very strong-tasting food.



Holds others tightly – needs to do so before there is a sensation of having applied any pressure.

Has a high pain threshold.

May be unable to feel food in the mouth.

Enjoys heavy objects (e.g. weighted blankets) on top of them.

Chews on everything, including clothing and inedible objects.


Touch can be painful and uncomfortable – people may not like to be touched and this can affect their relationships with others.

Dislikes having anything on hands or feet.

Difficulties brushing and washing hair because head is sensitive.

May find many food textures uncomfortable.

Only tolerates certain types of clothing or textures.

Balance (Vestibular)


A need to rock, swing or spin to get some sensory input.

You could encourage activities that help to develop the vestibular system. This could include using rocking horses, swings, roundabouts, seesaws, catching a ball or practising walking smoothly up steps or curbs.


Difficulties with activities like sport, where we need to control our movements.

Difficulties stopping quickly or during an activity.

Car sickness.

Difficulties with activities where the head is not upright, or feet are off the ground.

Body Awareness (Proprioception)

Our body awareness system tells us where our bodies are in space, and how different body parts are moving.


Stands too close to others, because they cannot measure their proximity to other people and judge personal space.

Finds it hard to navigate rooms and avoid obstructions.

May bump into people.


Difficulties with fine motor skills, e.g. manipulating small objects like buttons or shoe laces.

Moves whole body to look at something.

Carry on the conversation

How do cope with every day senses?

Do you have any tips or tricks that you use to overcome them?

Let me know in the comments below

As always, I can also be found on Twitter: @AutisticNick9 and at my email

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Thank you for reading and I will see you next time for more thoughts from across the spectrum.

9 thoughts on “Autism and Sensory Differences”

      1. Has to be systematic. Like seeing someone is frustrated ——> must find out why or remind self it’s not always actually about me. Sometimes I use percentages to gauge how bad a situation is and, if close to the person, ask them to describe their intensity using a scale from 1-10, with 10 being catastrophic.


  1. […] I have written about SPD before ( But I want to take a more in depth look at how each of our senses can be triggered as well as looking at some of the effects of hypersensitivity or hyposensitivity to sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touch, balance and body awareness. You can read a blog post titled Autism and sensory differences here […]


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