Saturday, February 7, 2009

Sensory Issues

Inspired by a post written by a new blogger, A, I've decided to touch upon what the experience of Asperger's is for me. I rant and rave so much about the subject that a lot of you probably don't know where I'm coming from... Therefore, I'm going to discuss how many of the issues associated with Asperger's Syndrome affects me. Maybe someone will gain some insight on this, from their own experiences? I hope!

So, about sensory problems. I've had a ton of these growing up. I remember I used to hate tags on clothing, and will usually wear soft cottons. I don't like wearing wool - I have a wool sweater that itches mercilessly through any long-sleeve shirt I put underneath and, hence, never wear. I don't like stiff pants or dress pants - I usually only wear soft, broken in jeans or dresses. I ADORE sweatpants but I still try to look put-together if I wear them. I love the way dress pants look though, so maybe this will change. 

I remember violently protesting when my mom trained me to shower instead of taking a bath. I believe I was about six or seven, and the water getting in my face, shampoo falling in my eyes was too much to handle. I would scream my lungs off whenever she made me shower, and would refuse to for days at a time. I've since learned to shower everyday, but it is still an uncomfortable experience in ways. The water hitting me overhead is so overwhelming that my actions in the shower are usually dragged out... They're never longer than 20 minutes, but I'm still finding ways to adjust.

One big problem I've always had has to do with loud empty noises: I can't STAND them. These include things like the vacuum, which I have to operate myself to be able to tolerate, the sound of traffic outside, grasshoppers chirping in the summer while I'm trying to sleep (hence, I can't sleep with the window open), TV static, the microwave, even the soft fuzzy noise my computer is giving off right now.... you get what I'm saying. If the sound is directed in any way, like music or television, then it's fine (even live music is perfectly fine), but those sounds that aren't meant to be made really bother me. It just feels like giant obstructions are filling my ears and jumbling around my thoughts. If one of these sounds are going, I can't function, to put it bluntly. This is one of my biggest sensory problems.

Another problem I have extends into the social realm of things: I'm very tacitly sensitive, so I can't handle being tickled. Even the slightest of human contact gives off a tickle. I'm fine with hugs and all that, but if someone touches a certain part of my arm, or tries to pat my shoulder, I can't help but giggle a little, and I'll get furious at my friends if they intentionally try to tickle me.  I'm tickled even if somebody shifts around where my shirt lies on my back... Also, being intimate with someone is usually a pleasant experience (granted, if he's a good kisser), but in my brain, intimate touching reads as tickling, and it can get frustrating for the other person involved. It's obviously something I need to get used to, so I hope I'm able to over time.

Also, my own personal well-being can cause sensory problems. Headaches and exhaustion feel like the end of the world. If I've had five hours of sleep, it will feel like I haven't had any, and I'll need plenty of caffeine and vitamins in order to function. I guess my body shows more easily when I'm not at the peak of my health. I don't know how much this reaches into the realm of sensory issues but I thought it was relevant nonetheless, and I'm wondering if anyone else experiences the same thing?

On another note, I love heavy-feeling things. I enjoy wearing many layers of clothing and giant, thick blankets when I sleep. I've read that this has to do with Asperger's in that some of those who have it like to apply pressure in order to relax. Part of this is why weighted blankets are so successful for many people (you can read more about this here). If you're interested in buying a weighted blanket, then there are many places available online.

I hope this post has helped some people gain insight on either themselves or their loved ones. As always, please share your own sensory experiences, or anything you'd like to say at all. Peace!


Fleecy said...

Heavy things! It's extremely difficult for me to sleep without at least one blanket, and if temperature in the room allows for it, I use two. Not having the blanket to push down on my skin makes my skin be... like actively waiting for, or "watching out for" contact with something. If that makes sense. I know that's a bizarre way to phrase it, but it's really a sense of the skin is anxiety-ridden thing that is searching and expecting.

A said...

I definitely agree with the heavy things thing too - I can't stand it in summer when it's too warm to sleep under a duvet, and generally in winter, the more layers, the better! At the moment, though it's really cold outside, my room is warm because the radiators are constantly on (they are centrally controlled), and I still have a duvet and throw and blanket on. It makes me feel secure and pinned down, in a way.

The showering thing too, I couldn't shower myself until I was at least ten years old, and I recall at one point wearing swimming goggles to stop the water going in my eyes.

Sometimes I can hear the sound in my ears, if it's really quiet, and that's quite irritating too. I can't tolerate outside noise but when it gets too quiet my brain generates its own!

Steve Florman said...

I still hate to shower, especially since we got a water softener. That slimy soft water feeling like you can NEVER get that soap to rinse off? I'll stand there and rub and rub trying to get the soap off my hands and they still feel soapy. Then the softener runs out of salt, we forget to buy it for awhile, and all of a sudden I can rinse again.

Older CRT computer monitors with a refresh rate less than about 70 hertz - I can see them flicker like a very rapid strobe. It gives me headaches. Fortunately almost everyone has gone to LCD monitors now. Some fluorescent lights do that as well, but ballast technology has changed too. (Thank goodness.)

I hate to be tickled. It does make intimacy tough. My wife and I have had to compromise in some ways.

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