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Posts Categorised: Triad of Impairments

by Graeme Stickings.

With the stereotypical view of autism, many will go to the alleged triad of impairments, lack of social imagination, poor communication and poor social interaction. (I know the triad is disputed, but we are referring to a stereotype). However, there is one aspect of life on the spectrum that not many neurotypicals will consider, but can affect us deeply, sensory issues. This is where one of our senses is either hypersensitive, (heightened) or hyposensitive (dulled).

In my experience, it is when a sense is hypersensitive that problems usually occur, as something that a NT will go through without thinking or paying any mind to, can cause serious discomfort or pain to one of us. My sense that I believe is heightened is my hearing. There are many sounds that NT’s can tune out and ignore, not so me, I hear them all. Sometimes they can be painful, like the fire alarm test at work, or children screaming at church when they do running races, other times they are distracting. Try sleeping when you can hear the fridge and the freezer from the bedroom, along with the storage heater and a DVD / Video / Recorder doing something at around 01:00 or even the cable box. You can live in a constant wall of sound. What I find frustrating though is when a NT tries to tell me something when there is background noise they don’t notice and I can’t hear, and then when it is quiet and I can hear them whisper, I am accused of selective hearing!

Of course, along with the lines of once you know one autistic person you know one autistic person, other people with an autism diagnosis have problems with their other senses. Temple Grandin has to wash all new clothes before she can wear them, and in our own organisation one member reports they have accessibility issues with their computer and so switch off all graphics when using the internet, could this be hypersensitive vision?

Hypersensitivity can be a really big issue. Hyposensitivity can also be an issue whereby certain warning signs given by our senses are not received, but I suspect that maybe more of an issue with children, although I will stand corrected on that.

So, when we make people aware of the challenges of being autistic, we need to show the NT’s it does not start and end with the infamous Triad of impairments. Some of us have senses that are strictly not impaired, but enhanced beyond the acuity of the Neuro Typical.


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Autistic UK campaigns in the UK and beyond to advance the interests of all autistic people and those with “related neuro-developmental conditions”.

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