Here are the tips for adults with autism on how to cope with the COVID-19 Pandemic. I’ve been doing these things during the pandemic.
How to cope with disrupted personal routines:
- Try to avoid burnout: If you are continuing to report to work, you may be working longer hours and having intense interactions with customers or co-workers. If you find yourself feeling burned out with the extra effort to sustain these interactions, tell a supervisor how you are feeling and that you need a break. You should document these conversations as well.
- Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness means being in the present moment with the activity you are doing. This can take the form of meditation, yoga, coloring, or any other activity that helps you focus on the “here and now.” There are many free online videos and apps you can use to explore different activities to see which ones work for you.
- Respect your emotions: This is a stressful time and you may experience emotions such as sadness, anger, fear, or frustration. Know that your emotions are valid, and many other people are also dealing with their own heightened emotions. Think of ways you have worked through emotions in the past and try to use some of those same tools now.
Many adults with autism have strategies for avoiding becoming overwhelmed by emotions. In this new and uncertain situation, remember your strategies to avoid a meltdown and take action to avoid it, such as finding a quiet place.
- Develop or revisit a crisis plan: Having a crisis plan may mean different things to different people. At its most basic level, this is a list of important information, including who to contact if you are in a crisis and what a crisis looks like to you. This plan may include emergency contact information when to call doctors, or other vital information to have in one place. Post a copy in your living space and carry a copy with you if you leave the house.
- Stick to a new routine: With everything changing around us, we are still able to live some semblance of normalcy by sticking to our existing routines or schedules, while adapting them to the current situation. Try to get up at the same time, still get dressed like usual, go to bed at the same time, and complete any hygiene tasks as if it were a typical day. If you are working from home, or perhaps not working at all, you’ll need to adjust your routine to account for this time. While it may be tempting to, say, not brush your hair or do chores when at home for long periods, these small details help to eliminate some of the stress of unpredictability.
- Exercise your mind and body: Stress takes a physical toll on your body and also depresses the immune system. If you are already physically active, try to find ways you can continue these routines at home. Look for free fitness routines online or see if your local gym is offering virtual classes. Keeping your mind active is also important as part of overall mental health. Instead of only binging a new TV series or watching movies, try to add variety by picking up a book or listening to a podcast. Most public libraries have an online system that allows you to check out electronic books and audiobooks to use on your device from home.
- Take care of your health: Taking care of your health at this time is extremely important not just for you, but also for others who you could unknowingly expose to the COVID-19 virus. Try to eat healthy meals, get enough rest, take medications as scheduled, and if you do feel sick, stay at home. If you have a medical emergency, you should call 911. If you have questions and are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, please follow the CDC guidelines. Also, call your doctor’s office or emergency room before going for treatment.
- Continue support networks: Many mental health providers, case managers, and specialists are still working but using different methods, such as virtual meetings or video calls. Call your providers to see how they can work with you during this time. Phone meetings may be harder, but prioritizing support right now can help you remember you are not alone. If you are part of an in-person support group, ask the leader if they can arrange a virtual meeting for those who want to join.
- Find some online or phone resources: There are a growing number of online resources to help people feel less alone during isolation. The Autism Response Team (888-AUTISM2) and 211 can help connect you with needed resources, including new ones being created. Connect with your peers regularly using email, text, video messaging, or social media. Make the effort to reach out to families and friends if you are feeling stressed.
- Take a media break: It is very easy to get overwhelmed with the constant barrage of information online about the current pandemic. If you find yourself feeling anxious while reading the news or social media, try to take a break. You can schedule a set amount of time to catch up on the news to make it less likely you’ll be overwhelmed by it. Remember to also schedule time at the beginning or end of the day to care for yourself by doing something fun or relaxing, depending on your needs that day.
- Plan for the future: One of the hardest things at this time is to think about the future with all of this uncertainty. Think positively about the future and the things you want to do when things improve. Is there a new skill or hobby you want to learn? Are there courses you can take to help you at work? Are there goals you want to achieve that you can work on while you are stuck at home? Make a plan to help you work toward bigger goals – it can help you try to stay positive.
Working from home: Developing a New Routine
Manage your time:
- While your usual workday routine may not be possible right now, that doesn’t mean you have to be without a routine at all. Start by determining what tasks you need to accomplish and when they are due. If necessary, contact your supervisor to make sure you are clear about what is most important to work on. Then, break bigger tasks down into steps and schedule them into your days. Try to leave extra time slots open in case you get behind on a task. This way, you have a plan in place for when things don’t go exactly as planned.
- A written schedule or visual routine is a good strategy for time management. You can use an app, a daily planner, or a simple checklist with the tasks you need to complete for the day. Many autistic people like to use visual cues to organize information, such as color-coding by task type or days of the week, or using pictures alongside a written schedule. For example, you might shade your break times in blue or include a picture of a phone next to any scheduled conference calls.
- If you prefer a more flexible approach, you can break the project down by setting a goal for the end of each day. Then list the steps you’ll need to do to reach that goal.
Organize your workspace:
- Set up a workspace that works to your advantage. As tempting as it is to lounge in bed or front of the TV with your laptop, this can make it harder to focus during the day and harder to relax at night. Consider your sensory needs—the type of lighting, noise level, and seating that allows you to focus. Choose a place that allows for easy access to any paperwork, tools, or other items you need without the clutter. If you’re having a hard time remembering your new setup, try using trays or bins with clear labels (made using text, color-coding, and/or visual cues).
- If your work involves frequent emails, consider setting up your inbox with subfolders and color-coded tags for each sender. You can organize computer documents and files in the same way.
Communicate With Co-Workers:
- The same technology that allows teams to work together across countries and continents makes it possible for projects to continue despite the circumstances brought about by COVID-19. Your employer may use a platform or app designed for remote work, such as Basecamp, where team members post announcements, schedules, to-do lists, and files. Team meetings may take place over a video- or web-conference platform such as Zoom or Skype. If you are having trouble navigating these platforms, contact your supervisor or a savvy co-worker and ask if they can walk you through how to use the most important functions.
- Since in-person contact is not possible, you might see an increase in emails, phone calls, and video conferences. Leave time for responding to these in your daily schedule. Some of these communication methods may be more difficult for you. Don’t be afraid to double-check your understanding following one-to-one emails or phone calls, especially if you were given instructions.
- During meetings, consider taking notes, writing down questions, or even asking permission to record. If you agree to do or are assigned tasks during the call, you can write them down as a list of action items. Then, you can reach out to the meeting leader, your supervisor, or a coworker with your list to confirm or clarify what you will be working on.
- Successfully working from home is as much about personal wellness as it is about productivity. As much as possible, keep the parts of your day that don’t have to change, like the time you wake up and go to bed, the clothes you wear. and meal times. Using these as anchor points can give you a sense of normalcy as you fill in the gaps with your new routine.
- For many people with autism, work can be socially draining, so home becomes a place of much-needed alone time. In this case, working from home could mean too much isolation. With social distancing in mind, you can find ways to stay connected to other people once your workday is over. Play video games, invite coworkers to a long-distance movie night via Netflix Party, or take a walk while staying at least six feet apart.
- Make sure you take breaks during the workday for both your body and mind—eat regular meals, get up regularly to stretch or take a short walk, and give your eyes a chance to get away from the screen.
- As you develop your new routine, check in with yourself regularly. Are you meeting your goals? Are you getting healthy amounts of sleep, food, and exercise? Are you keeping in touch with other people? Are your mood and anxiety level manageable? Keep the big picture in mind—that your wellness is key to successfully working from home, and that your new routine is a good thing because you are helping to keep yourself and others safe.
Here are more coping tips:
- Don’t get upset when certain events get canceled or postponed. Just deal with it and move on.
- Make a post-pandemic plan.
- Put off traveling until it’s safe to do so.
- Try virtual tours of museums, national parks, etc.
- Watch virtual events (concerts, conferences, etc).
Here’s more info:
Support for Autistic Adults Dealing With COVID-19 Employment Changes:
Applying for Unemployment: https://www.usa.gov/unemployment
Here are tips on coping with stress from WHO (World Health Organization):
- It is normal to feel sad, stressed, confused, scared or
angry during a crisis.
- Talking to people you trust can help. Contact your
family and friends.
- Don’t use smoking, alcohol, or other drugs to deal with
- If you feel overwhelmed, talk to a health worker or
counselor. Have a plan, where to go to, and how to seek
help for physical and mental health needs if required.
- Limit worry and agitation by lessening the time you
and your family spend watching or listening to media
coverage that you perceive as upsetting.
- If you must stay at home, maintain a healthy lifestyle –
including proper diet, sleep, exercise, and social contacts
with loved ones at home and by email and phone with
other family and friends.
- Get the facts. Gather information that will help you
accurately determine your risk so that you can take
reasonable precautions. Find a credible source you can
trust such as the WHO website or, a local or state public
health agency. Ignore the fake news or misinformation.
- Draw on skills you have used in the past that have
helped you to manage previous life’s adversities and use
those skills to help you manage your emotions during
the challenging time of this outbreak.
Here are more mental health tips including the resources from the American Psychological Association:
- Ration all the supplies.
- Once in a while, order essential items online, but don’t overspend.
- If you run out, deal with it and use other options. For example, if you run out of hot dogs, eat something else instead. Or if you run out of shampoo, use dry shampoo or some other hair resource.
- Sanitize mail and food deliveries.
- No contact with the deliverers.
- If you’re on essential errands, wear masks, carry hand sanitizers & tissues, and stay away from strangers.
- Donate to charities.
Here’s a link of more info and resources for families, educators, caregivers, etc:
Here’s a link of how people with autism are coping with the pandemic:
If you had been vaccinated, don’t do anything strenuous. Go easy on yourself. Relax and read or watch TV. Get some sleep. Take some Tylenol, Ibuprofen, or some other medication once in a while. Eat lightly, nothing heavy. Keep your vaccine card. Do not lose it or misplace it. Put it in a safe place. Take a picture of it.
It’s not easy living with both autism and diabetes every day. Sometimes, problems can cause anxiety. Stress can be a factor in hyperglycemia.
Here are the coping skills:
- Pay attention to your feelings. Almost everyone feels frustrated or stressed from time to time. Dealing with diabetes can add to these feelings and make you feel overwhelmed. Having these feelings for more than a week or two may signal that you need help coping with your diabetes so that you can feel better.
- Talk with your health care providers about your feelings. Let your doctor, nurse, diabetes educator, or psychologist know how you’ve been feeling. They can help you problem-solve your concerns about diabetes. They may also suggest that you speak with other health care providers to get help.
- Talk to your therapists and health care providers about negative reactions other people may have about your diabetes. Your therapists and health care providers can help you manage feelings of being judged by others because you have autism and diabetes. It is important not to feel that you have to hide your autism and diabetes from other people.
- Ask if help is available for the costs of diabetes medicines and supplies and autism-related stuff. If you are worried about the costs, talk with your pharmacist and other health care providers. They may know about government or other programs that can assist people with costs. You can also check with community health centers to see if they know about programs that help people get insulin, diabetes medicines, and supplies (test strips, syringes, etc.) or programs that help people with autism.
- Talk with your family and friends. Tell those closest to you how you feel about having autism and diabetes. Be honest about the problems you’re having in dealing with both conditions. Just telling others how you feel helps to relieve some of the stress. However, sometimes the people around you may add to your stress. Let them know how and when you need them to help you.
- Allow loved ones to help you take care of your diabetes and deal with autism. Those closest to you can help you in several ways. They can remind you to take your medicines, help monitor your blood sugar levels, join you in being physically active, prepare healthy meals, and deal with autism-related problems properly. They can also learn more about diabetes and go with you when you visit your doctor. Ask your loved ones to help with your autism and diabetes in ways that are useful to you.
- Talk to other people with autism and diabetes or people who have one of the conditions. Other people with one condition or the other or both understand what you’re going through. Ask them for advice. They can help you feel less lonely and overwhelmed. Look for autism and diabetes support groups in your community or online or look up personal accounts online.
- Do one thing at a time. When you think about everything you need to do to manage your diabetes, it can be overwhelming. To deal with diabetes distress, make a list of all of the tasks you have to do to take care of yourself each day. Try to work on each task separately, one at a time.
- Pace yourself. As you work on your goals, like increasing physical activity, take it slowly. You don’t have to meet your goals immediately. Your goal may be to walk 10 minutes, three times a day each day of the week, but you can start by walking two times a day or every other day.
- Take time to do things you enjoy. Give yourself a break! Set aside time in your day to do something you love; it could be calling a friend, playing games, or working on a fun project. Find out about activities near you that you can do with a friend.
- Scream into a pillow: If necessary, scream into a pillow in a private place, but make sure nobody hears you. Otherwise, they’ll call the police. Optionally, turn on the TV or music very loud, so nobody would hear you scream.
- Keep a diary: To help someone understand anxiety, get them to understand the symptoms they display when they are anxious, and to look at the causes of their anxiety. Keeping a diary in which they write about certain situations and how these make them feel may help them to understand their anxiety and manage it better. Use the diary also to think about the physical changes linked to anxiety. Use the diary to monitor this as well. Record the time and date, situation, how you felt, how anxious (1 to 10), etc.
- Meltdown prevention plan: Create an anxiety plan when someone is feeling positive about things. An anxiety plan is a list of things and situations that cause anxiety as well as solutions and strategies they can use to help them manage their anxiety levels. The plan can be adapted, depending upon how well someone understands anxiety. Remind yourself not to worry about hypo or hyperglycemia levels. It’s okay if you’re surprised once in a while, but don’t make a big deal out of it. Deal with them properly. Learn the lessons from your mistakes and move on. Take a few deep breaths if necessary.
Here’s an example of a prevention plan:
- Situation – going on the bus or having high blood sugar
- Anxiety symptoms – heart beating fast, sweating, or feeling sick
- Solution – keep a stress ball in a pocket, squeeze the ball, take deep breaths, and listen to soft music.
- Relaxation techniques: People with autism can sometimes find it very difficult to relax. Some have a particular interest or activity they like to do because it helps them relax. If they use these to relax, it may help to build them into their daily routine. However, this interest or activity can itself be the source of behavioral difficulties at times, especially if they’re unable to follow their interest or do the activity at a particular moment. Some people may need to be left alone for short periods of the day to help them unwind.
- Physical activity can also often help to manage anxiety and release tension. Using deep breathing exercises to relax can be helpful as can activities such as yoga and Pilates or ballet fitness, which focus on breathing to relax. Use a visual timetable or write a list to help remind the person when they need to practice relaxation.
- Any other activities that are pleasant and calming such as taking a bath, listening to relaxing music, aromatherapy, playing on a computer may also help reduce anxiety. Some people may find lights particularly soothing, especially those of a repetitive nature, such as spinning lights or bubble tubes.
- Talking about anxiety: Some people find confrontation difficult. They may therefore be unable to say they don’t like certain things or situations, which will raise their anxiety levels. If they identify they are anxious, they could use a card system to let family or friends around them know how they are feeling. At first, you may need to tell them when to use the card and prompt them to use it when they do become anxious. They could also carry a card around with them to remind themselves of what they need to do if they start getting anxious. You could also give them a stress scale that they can use whenever they find something particularly stressful.
- It may help them to buy our Autism Alert card, which is the size of a credit card. They can use the card to let members of the public know that they are autistic.
- Stop and Think! method: Stop and think to yourself, ‘Is it worth it to worry over this?’ For example, a person with autism checks his or her blood sugar. The result is 300. He or she takes a deep breath and thinks, ‘I gotta deal with this properly. I don’t wanna get upset over this!’ Two hours after dinner of a low-carb meal and a proper amount of insulin, he or she rechecks the glucose levels. The result was 150. Another example is that he or she waits in a long line at the movies or a grocery store and thinks, ‘Nothing to worry about. Everything’s fine. No big deal. I don’t want high levels later.’
Remember that it’s important to pay attention to your feelings. If you notice that you’re feeling frustrated, tired, and unable to make decisions, take action. Tell your family, friends, counselors, and health care providers. They can help you get the support you need. Make sure you don’t end up in the hospital.
*Same content on Coping Skills blog under Life With Diabetes site.
- Socially Avoidant
- Socially Indifferent
- Socially Awkward
- Minimal interaction
- Turning or walking away
- Fear of unexpected touch
- Maybe hypersensitive to another’s voice or smells
- Doesn’t seek interaction with others
- Interaction increases when “wants and needs” are necessary
- Will initiate rather than respond
- Most common category
- Want to experience social engagement but lack the skills
- History of being excluded or left out
- Lack reciprocity in social interaction
- Poor conversation skills
Social-Emotional Issue #1:
- Unsafe use of playground equipment
- “Aggressive” with peers
- Disrupts others’ games
Why is this occurring?
- Sensory seeking
- Difficulty controlling body movements
- Poor modulation
- Lack of social skills for play
- Practice safe use of equipment
- Provide and review a written list of playground rules
- Pair student with a peer model
- Review playground performance and offer immediate feedback
- Alert the playground supervisor of the student with special needs
- Be aware of signs and signals of over-arousal
- Student may need additional adult supervision
Social-Emotional Issue #2
BEHAVIOR: Making rude or inappropriate comments
Why is this occurring?
- Decreased perspective-taking
- Deficits in verbal communication (receptive and expressive)
- Difficulty with social pragmatics
- Challenges reading nonverbal signals from others
- Prepare other students for their reaction (ignore or model appropriate behavior)
- Identify the pattern and be prepared to help the student
- Make your immediate feedback and be specific
- Practice the social interaction
Social-Emotional Issue #3
BEHAVIOR: Difficulty accepting criticism or help
Why does this happen?
- Concrete thinking interferes
- Anxiety increases
- Maintain a calm, quiet voice
- Avoid “black and white” words such as “wrong”
- Use qualifiers (“very close” or “almost”)
- Try writing your corrections or assistance rather than talking
- Prepare peers to expect such behavior and disregard or encourage if appropriate
Routine & Academics Issue #1
BEHAVIOR: Messy desk and losing homework
Why is this occurring? Planning deficits, visual processing problems, & poor motor skills
- Give the entire class an organizational review
- In the AM, take time to walk the student through the process of getting materials out of a backpack, handing in homework, etc. then fade your prompts
- Have a peer buddy help father materials at the end of the day
- Consider using an accordion file folder rather than 3-ring
- Copy teacher’s transparencies
- Takes teacher/parent communication
Routine & Academics Issue #2
BEHAVIOR: Inattentive/off-task or not following directions in and out of class
Why is this occurring?
- Too much verbal information
- Difficulty terminating and transitioning
- Auditory and visual distractions
- Daydreaming or shut-down due to sensory overload or fatigue
- Visual supports
- Hand fidgets
- Oral strategies
- Seat near the teacher or away from distractions
- Alert the student that directions are forthcoming
- Check to ensure the student is starting assignment, art, or PE activity correctly
- Keep language simple and concrete
- Allow time for processing
Routine & Academics Issue #3
BEHAVIOR: Problems Riding on the Bus or in the Car
- Student leaves his or her seat
- Can be disruptive
- Refuses to get on/off the bus or in/out of the car
- Allow plenty of time in the morning for the student to engage in his/her routine
- Provide something familiar to occupy the child (iPod, book, toy) for the ride to and from school
- Give him or her a closed-ended task/game to play during the ride
- Seat near the bus driver
- Bring a friend to meet him or her or walk to the bus
- Bring a favorite item to carry back to the classroom upon arrival
- Take something special home to “show and tell” to parents—don’t just put it in his or her backpack
Avoidance and Retreat
- Over-responsive to sensation
- May respond to touch with aggression or fear
- May appear anxious and unwilling to take chances
- Avoids crowded areas
- Can be picky eaters
- Decreased peer and social relations
Avoidance and Retreat Issue #1
BEHAVIOR: Covering Ears
Why is this occurring?
- Noise in the environment is perceived as painful, irritating, or confusing
- Student has difficulty screening out extraneous information and is overwhelmed
- Can be a “passive” resistive behavior to refuse work
- Give students a “heads-up” to alarms, bells, etc.
- Allow the use of headphones in class, during assemblies, on the bus, or on the playground
- Provide quiet space for “noise break”
- Help student label his emotional reaction
- Use a positive reinforcement strategy
Avoidance and Retreat #2
BEHAVIOR: Putting head down, “shutting down,” or running away in class, during PE, or at recess
Why is this occurring?
- Anticipating his or her over-reactivity to sensation, he becomes avoidant and doesn’t participate in academics and social opportunities
- Unaware of the rules of the games
- Aware that motor skills are hard for him—become avoidant
- Prepare the student for the activity (social story)
- Positively reinforce participation in a stimulating activity
- Give the student time to collect himself or herself
- “Front-load” the student–practice the games and activities for PE and recess
- Allow an “approach/avoid” pattern—it’s OK to take a break and return to the activity
Difficulty with Routine and Academics
- Internal Issues:
- Lacking adequate skills
- Not understanding
- Fear of being teased, left out, misunderstood
- External Issues:
- Change in the physical environment
- Change in routine
- Having to wait too long
- Environmental Confusion: crowds & excessive visual/auditory clutter
- Organizational Concerns: desk, backpack, & homework
- Sensory Issues: may impact the ability to focus on academic, PE, play
What does sensory processing have to do with learning and behavior at school? Necessary for systems to work together in an organized manner or major traffic jam!
Sensory Processing Dysfunction
- Sensory Modulation Disorders (SMD)
- Sensory Over-Responsive (SOR)
- Sensory Under-Responsive (SUR)
- Sensory Seeking (SS)
- Sensory Discrimination Disorders
- Sensory Based Movement Disorders: Dyspraxia and Postural
Not all children with sensory processing disorders have autism, but all children with autism have sensory issues.
How Can We Best Categorize The Concerning Behaviors?
- Movement Issues
- Avoidance and Retreat Behaviors
- Difficulty with Routine and Academics
Where do we see these behaviors?
- Inside the classroom
- Outside the classroom—arriving, in line, leaving school
- PE and Playground
- Art, Music, Assemblies
- Pull-Out Services
- Lunchtime and Snack
- Student appears to be under-aware of his body and environmental stimuli
- Student may be defensive to touch
- Student appears to be hyperactive, or a “sensory seeker”
- May be labeled as “aggressive” with peers
Movement Issue #1:
- Out of seat
Why is occurring?
- Student craves movement
- May be an attempt to maintain an arousal state
- Movement breaks
- Allow the student to stand at the desk
- Hand fidgets
- Seat cushion device
- Oral strategies
- “Calm Down Breathing”
Movement Issue #2
- Breaking pencils or canyons
- Extremely dark lettering
- Messy dark
- Can’t keep up with written work
What is the cause?
- Touch and force systems are under-aware
- Attempt to self-regulate by drawing and writing darkly
- Poor fine motor skills lead to frustration
- Use heavier writing utensils that won’t break
- Use heavier stock paper
- Use a mechanical pencil
- Try keyboarding
- Peer scribe
- Supply handouts, use a highlighter
Movement Issue #3
- Doesn’t line up in time
- Wanders away from a group
- Pokes or pushes other students
- “Aggressive” during PE and on the playground
Why is this occurring?
- Challenges with waiting
- Lack of awareness of environmental cues
- Student is sensory seeking
- Reduce waiting time/limit turn taking
- Assign a consistent place inline
- Have motor restless child act as door holder
- Give the student something to hold in his hands while standing and walking inline
- Practice walking to various locations on campus to build a visual memory map
- Review the play and line rules
- Provide positive reinforcement for appropriate behavior
Movement Breaks in Class
- Move ‘n Sit cushion
- Semi-inflated beach ball
- Classroom helper
- Chair lifts
- Wall push-ups
Movement Breaks Out of Class
- Playground activities
- Custodial helper
Some Ideas for Hand Fidgets
- Squeeze balls
- Koosh balls
- Rubber bands
- Textured fabric
- Stretchy bracelets
- Jolly Ranchers
- Spicy, crunchy, chewy snacks
- Stir sticks
- Water bottle with a thin or long straw
At the seminar, Beth Aune, an occupational therapist, presented behavior solutions in and beyond the inclusive classroom.
- The growing emphasis on the inclusion of disabled students into the general education population.
- Over the past few decades, U.S. students enrolled in special education programs has risen (National Education Association)
- Three out of every four students with disabilities spend part of all of their day in a general education classroom (National Education Association)
- Autism spectrum disorder
- Asperger’s syndrome
- Sensory Processing Disorder
- Learning Disability
- Distractibility and inattentiveness
- Difficulty with self-control
- Emotional instability
- Poor peer relations and social interaction
- Low self-image
- Weak expressive and receptive language
- Poor handwriting
- Poor organizational skills
What do Educators Need?
- Please? No more boring theory!
- Help me understand what I am seeing
- Help me understand why it is happening
- Give me tools to help my student
Sensory Processing—A Review by Dr. Lucy Miller
Sensory processing refers how the CNS and the peripheral nervous system manage incoming sensory information. The reception, modulation, integration, and organization of sensory stimuli, including the behavioral responses to sensory input, are all components of sensory processing.
- Sight (visual)
- Hearing (auditory)
- Taste (gustatory)
- Smell (olfactory)
- Touch (tactile)
- Movement (vestibular)
- Muscle awareness (proprioceptive)
- Most relied upon a sense for orientation in space
- Receptors are in rods and cones in the retina
- Mediates number of protective and postural responses
- Perceptual—how the brain interprets visual information
- Motor—how the extraocular muscles work, including binocular (two eyes), tracking, and scanning
- Receptors are in the cochlea, transmitted from hair cells through cranial nerve
- Has own set of reflexes related to protective behavior
- Connects to the reticular formation
- Evokes responses in the autonomic nervous system
- Receptors are located in the tongue, soft palate, and upper regions of the throat
- Sweet, sour, salty, bitter
- Chemical and somatosensory experience for eating and protection
- Receptors are the specialized epithelium in the roof of the nasal cavity
- Stimuli go directly into the amygdala of the limbic system
- May elicit emotional responses or primal behavior associated with survival
- Works as a team with the visual system
- Receptors are in the semicircular canals
- Sensitive to head movement
- Rotary acceleration or declaration
- Utricle and saccule sense the direction of gravitational pull
- Receptors in the skin
- Works with the proprioceptive system to influence development and awareness of body scheme
- Two functions:
- Discriminative—touch, pressure, vibration. Tactile discrimination identifies spatial and temporal qualities of stimuli
- Protective—produces sympathetic arousal and directs input to reticular formation. Pain, temperature, tickle, itch
- Receptors are deep in muscle spindles, Golgi tendons, and joints
- Understanding of where joints and muscles are in space
- Works with the vestibular system to give sense of balance and position
- Works with the tactile system to coordinate posture and movement of limbs
- Neck joints and proximal limb joints give most feedback to CNS
- Powerful therapeutic tool!
At the same seminar, I saw Sean Barron speaking about the unwritten rules of social relationships. He was also an amazing public speaker. Here’s what I learned from him:
Unwritten Rule #1: Rules are not absolute. They are situation-based and people-based. People should handle situations properly.
Unwritten Rule #2: Not everything is equally important in the grand scheme of things. Many people with autism have a hard time having a healthy perspective on things. Certain things have to be prioritized.
Unwritten Rule #3: Everyone in the world makes mistakes. They don’t have to ruin your day. Don’t expect to be perfect. People with autism have a hard time accepting mistakes, but they have to learn from them. They need to let things go and move on. Life is not perfect. They need to be objective, not blow things out of proportion, or stress over unimportant matters.
Unwritten Rule #4: Honesty is different from diplomacy. Some individuals with autism can be very blunt and direct. They need to know their boundaries when it comes to honesty.
Unwritten Rule #5: Being polite is appropriate in any situation.
Unwritten Rule #6: Not everyone who is nice to me is my friend. Some people want instant results. Some people may take advantage of individuals with autism or be a bad influence on them. People with autism have to learn body language.
Unwritten Rule #7: People act differently in public than they do in private.
Unwritten Rule #8: Know when you’re turning people off.
Unwritten Rule #9: “Fitting in” is often tied to looking and sounding like you fit in.
Unwritten Rule #10: People are responsible for their own behaviors.