I’m not sure exactly what it is that causes people with autism to be more sensitive than others with certain things. I was talking to my mom about it and she said that she thinks we might have more sensitive nerve endings than other people and so we just feel more in general.
Anyway, as far as sensitivity goes, I’m probably most sensitive with sounds. I don’t like loud sounds, especially ones that are continuous like the sounds of the washer or dryer. I also don’t like when people scrape their plates and sometimes even people’s voices can be really distressing. Loud voices make me really uncomfortable but even normal voices can seem really loud at times and that sometimes makes it hard to want to be around people.
I think that I have learned to control my reactions to things as I’ve gotten older, but that doesn’t always make things less distressing. Sometimes even normal everyday sounds make me want to runaway and find a quiet place, but that’s not always possible so I’ve had to learn to do things to distract myself from the noise. Something that I do most often to distract myself is running my fingers along a textured surface, I find this very calming for some reason and it helps keep my focus away from whatever might be distressing to me.
I don’t know exactly how to describe the feelings I get from sounds, but the best way I can think of to describe it is that sound to me is not just something I hear; it’s something I feel. Loud sounds can make me feel anxious, uncomfortable, upset, nervous, or even sometimes as if I were being hurt physically. Sensitivity with sound is more than just not liking a sound. It is a physical, mental, emotional experience and that’s why it’s such a big deal.
I think that maybe the gift and curse of autism is that we don’t just see and hear and touch and taste and smell, we experience each sense as it’s own event that induces feelings, thoughts, and emotions. What we see and hear and feel is not just a sensory stimulation that goes straight to our brain and is processed systematically, but instead our senses send messages through our body affecting everything in us like waves rushing through us.
Maybe everyone has those experiences too or maybe it’s just something a few of us experience, but it makes this world interesting, new and unique, but also sometimes scary, overwhelming, and uncomfortable.