Many individuals on the autism spectrum struggle with sensory problems: the lights are too bright, the fabric too scratchy, the noise simply overwhelming. Unfortunately, the neurotypical world is often unsympathetic. This can be especially true in school settings, where all kids are expected to fit in to all the same requirements. Every kids must survive a fluorescent lit classroom, the overly warm, fetid cafeteria, and a screaming, running recess "break". These sensory challenges can make a school day into a marathon of overwhelming and exhausting input. (And leave your kids too exhausted to tackle that pile of homework.)
I think it can be hard for neurotypicals to understand what these sensory issues can feel like. Of course, everyone is different and each person has their own particular issues. But I did want to pass along an interesting article on one individual's experiences of sensory challenges. Brian King is a social worker, as well as someone diagnosed with Asperger's as an adult. Check out the third issue of Brian's Spectrumite magazine to learn about what his experience is like. Talk to your kids about their experiences, and try to understand their own particular sensitivities. Maybe the school can be a little more flexible, or some sensory related modifications can be written into the IEP.
Still not sure these sensory issues are real? Just think about biting on foil or scratching fingers down a chalkboard. Can you imagine trying to learn while that's going on?
Patricia Robinson MFT
I'm a licensed therapist in Danville, California and a coach for Asperger's and ADHD nationwide. I work with individuals of all ages who have special needs, like Autism Spectrum Disorders, ADD, ADHD, and the family members and partners of special needs individuals.