Asperger Sensory Overload
People with Aspergers are known to have problems with sensory overload. This means they can be overly sensitive to, touch, tastes, textures in the mouth, movements, loud sounds or lights. They receive too much information or stimuli from their environment which can explain some of their typical behaviors such as keeping their ears covered in a crowd, their clumsiness or their unwillingness to go to social gatherings. Their poor communication skills and social withdrawal may also be caused by the input of too much sensory information in the brain.
Sensory overload, occurs when the brain receives too much sensory information. This sensory information is needed to interact with the world around us. The only way we receive this information is through the senses which help us to find out where we need to put our attention, how to react or when to ignore stimuli. The senses can be seen as a filter who helps us protect ourself against too much information.
But what if that filter does not work properly and lets in way too much information? Is it possible to function normally then? This can be the case for some people with Asperger, mostly children. Unable to sort out the right sensory information they seem overwhelmed by the world around them and are unable to react to it effectively.
Signs of Sensory Overload
• Overly sensitive when touched, refusing to be held or cuddled
• Easily distracted
• Avoiding moving playground equipment such as swings
• Emotional problems
• Social withdrawal
• Sensitive to sounds such as singing or humming
• Lack of fear even when it would be appropriate• Unaware of dangers
• Anger management problems
• Unable to calm themselves down
• Unable to stop their behavior, even when it is asked
• Delayed motor skills
• Delayed language acquisition
• Delayed speech skills
• Refusing to get splashed by water in the face (taking a shower)
• Unable to wear anything with clothing tags still in it
• Fainting when too much sounds or lights are unexpectedly present.
Normally children will learn to make sense of the information by interacting with others and through their daily play activities. Children with Asperger Syndrome lack social interaction with others and because their senses are overly sensitive they have to put more effort into all the normal simple stuff others take for granted. Learning new things or playing with others is much more difficult this way.
Sensory Integration Therapy
The purpose of Sensory Integration therapy is to engage children in fun activities which will help them integrate the sensory information. The therapy involves deep pressure, brushing, massage, vibration, and the use of play equipment such as inclines, balls, swings, and tunnels. This way they learn to get more control over their bodies and their environment. It’s a creative fun way to interact with children and has shown some amazing results.
There are possibilities for a home program or specific types of activities you can do yourself. It is fun to interact with your child this way and it helps them too! If your child has specific problems that re-occur in daily life, a good therapist will train you to help your child.
Look for a qualified therapist, an OTR specialized in sensory integration. You can look in the Yellow Pages under therapy, occupational therapy or physical therapy and call clinics or hospitals that specialize in pediatrics. Although some schools have a school ORT most of these therapists are not qualified to give Sensory Integration Therapy. Make sure you find a qualified ORT!