Friday, September 9, 2011

Sounds (and Feels) Familiar



The Asperger's traits addressed in this post include:
*Sensitivity to sensory input

Now that I am writing this blog, I am becoming more aware of terms that relate to Asperger's syndrome and autism. One of these terms is "sensory integration dysfunction." I stumbled onto this term while completing a medical questionnaire, and found out that it's an experience I am very familiar with--only I always described sensory integration dysfunction with these words: "I can't get comfortable."

Here's an overview of the topic from WebMD.com:
Please click: Sensory Integration Dysfunction

When sensory integration dysfunction (haha, I'm having fun typing that over and over) strikes out of the blue, I may start behaving in a strange way, because my discomfort is absolutely intolerable. Finding relief may be the only thing I can think about, and sometimes I can't politely and patiently explain why I burst into tears, hurry out of a crowded room, or get that sudden pained expression on my face.

This is how auditory SID feels in a public restaurant: stressful. Understanding one person's words can be very hard, when my brain is fighting to screen out the sounds of customers chattering, silverware clinking, water being poured, chairs being scraped, music crooning across the sound system, the footsteps of the servers, the central heating / cooling system, doors opening and shutting, racket from the kitchen, laughter, chewing, and slurping. My heart rate is up just from defining all those sounds! And, no, I'm not in a restaurant listening right now. These sounds are memorized from long exposure, and I hate them. I hate them because they are too loud. They make a fun time with friends exhausting for me. 

I think I'll go back to bed.

Oh, yeah. Bed can be exhausting too. When I used to tell my dad and mom, night after night, "I can't get comfortable," I was in bed! Who thinks bed is uncomfortable, for partridge's sake? Only somebody with sensory integration dysfunction, I'm thinking . . . .

I am blessed that SID does not affect my enjoyment of hugs, as it does for so many autistic people. Tactile sensory dysfunction strikes in peculiar ways. There are those who hate the feel of a tag in an undershirt and have worn their undershirts inside out for decades. There are those who put off haircuts as long as possible, simply because they don't like to feel the barber touching their heads. There are those whose family laughingly call them porcupines because they wiggle out of any embrace. It's not being weird. It's being on the autism spectrum.

For me, though, the intensity of SID is generally on a lower scale, more along the lines of High Sensitivity. I discovered a long time ago that I am what is termed a Highly Sensitive Person. My normal daily experience fits the HSP profile better than the SID profile (thank God). For an explanation of the difference, see this FAQ on "The Highly Sensitive Person."

Light and smells can also be overpowering to many Aspies. Chronic headaches can be triggered by hypersenstivity to perfumes and air fresheners, etc. as well as bright lights. My first headache ever came while "enjoying" a drive-through Christmas lights display.

More on the Christmas season later - and prepare your minds, because I seriously suspect that the Grinch had Asperger's traits. After all, even Dr. Suess wasn't 100% sure why the Grinch stole Christmas. But let me remind y'all that Mr. Grinch changed for the better as a result of his experiences. Christmas isn't called the season of hope and joy for nothing.

How this topic applies to Christian living:

I Thessalonians 5:14

Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.