Hypersensitivity and hyposensitivity in autism

Hypersensitivity and hyposensitivity in autism

As the word “hypersensitivity” suggests – autistic children who are easily stimulated may have a hypersensitivity to sensory input. Being hypersensitive means that the environment bothers the child more than what it would bother anybody else. Signs of hypersensitivity in young autistic children can include:

  • picky eating
  • gag reflexes when being introduced to new food texture
  • refusal to walk barefoot or put on new shoes
  • blocking ears or crying when loud noises are present
  • eloping from situations
  • resistant to hugs or sudden touches
  • difficulty controlling emotion in a variety of settings
  • difficulty focusing attention particularly or listening

In contrast to children being hypersensitive to the environment some autistic children show seeking behaviors which is referred to as hyposensitivity. These children may engage more with their surroundings and actively seek sensory input for example:

  • children that constantly mouth items
  • chewing clothes, toys and non-food items
  • eating anything and everything that they can get their hands on
  • sitting with their faces against the television or forcing the volume up
  • a seemingly very high pain threshold
  • seeking constant hugs and touch
  • no regard for personal space
  • deliberately running into walls or bumping into furniture
  • rocking or swaying

If you notice any of the above behaviors, we would highly recommend that you consult with a Sensory Integration Occupational Therapist or you can chat to your Autism Therapist or a local Autism School for guidance.

Ilse Kilian-Ross

Ilse Kilian-Ross is the owner of Amazing K, a registered ECD and Partial Care Facility in Johannesburg. Amazing K is a private adhd school, autism school and therapy centre for children from age 2 - 6 years where learners receive the best of both the schooling and therapy world. The autism school offers Individualized Education Programs, Speech- and Augmentive Alternative Communication (AAC) therapy as well as a full and adapted Academic Curriculum.