lunes, 16 de agosto de 2010

Autismo y Percepción Extrasensorial

¿Por qué en estos casos no se habla de percepción extrasensorial? Quizás porque el Autismo sigue viéndose exclusivamente bajo el prisma de una "enfermedad"...

Sensory Hypersensitivity and/or Hyposensitivity in Autism

The most common sensory problems autistic people experience are their hyper- or hyposensitivities to sensory stimuli. Their senses seem to be too acute (in the case of hypersensitivity) or not working at all (in the case of hyposensitivity).


Hypervision (seeing 'invisible') means that they can see better than other people, i.e. their vision is too acute. For example, they notice the tiniest pieces of fluff on the carpet, complain about "moths (air particles) flying", dislike bright lights, look down most of the time, are frightened by sharp flashes of light, etc.

Hyperhearing (hearing 'inaudible') is widely reported. Temple Grandin describes her hearing as having a sound amplifier set on maximum loudness, and she compares her ears with a microphone that picks up and amplifies sounds. My autistic son seems to hear the noises before any of us. He can announce of his dad coming home before anybody else can hear the car turning to the porch. As noises seem so much louder to him, he usually moves away from conversations and avoids crowded places.

Children with hyperhearing are generally very light sleepers, are frightened by sudden unpredictable sounds (telephone ringing, baby crying), dislike thunderstorm, crowds, are terrified by haircut, etc. They often cover their ears when the noise is painful for them, though others in the same room may be unaware of any disturbing sounds at all. Sometimes hyperauditory kids make repetitive noises to block out other disturbing sounds.

Hypertaste/Hypersmell: Some autistic individuals with olfactory hypersensitivities cannot tolerate how people or objects smell, though non-autistics can be unaware of any smell at all. They run from smells, move away from people and insist on wearing the same clothes all the time. For some, the smell or taste of any food is too strong, and they reject it no matter how hungry they are. They are usually poor eaters, gag/vomit easily, eat only certain foods.

Hypertactility is very common among autistic population. Some autistic children pull away when people try to hug them, because they fear being touched. Because of their hypertactility resulting in overwhelming sensations, even the slightest touch can send them to panic attack. Small scratches that most people ignore can be very painful to them. Parents often report that washing their child's hair or cutting nails turns into an ordeal demanding several people to complete it.

Many children refuse to wear certain clothes as they cannot tolerate the texture on their skin. For some people it takes many days to stop feeling their clothes on their body. And, unfortunately, when this comfortable feeling (or 'non-feeling') has been achieved it is time to wear clean ones, so the process of getting used to it starts again.

Vestibular hypersensitivity is reflected in a low tolerance for any activity that involves movement or quick change in the position of the body (swings, slides, merry-go-round, etc.) People with vestibular hypersensitivity experience difficulty changing directions and walking or crawling on uneven or unstable surfaces. They are poor at sports. They feel disoriented after spinning, jumping or running and often express fear and anxiety of having their feet leave the ground.

Proprioceptive hypersensitivity is reflected in odd body posturing, difficulty manipulating small objects, etc.


There might be times when they are not getting enough information because their senses are 'hypo'. It results in that they do not really see, hear or feel anything. They are just there. To stimulate their senses they might wave their hands around or rock forth and back or make strange noises.

Hypovision: Some autistic people may experience trouble figuring out where objects are, as they see just outlines, then they may walk around objects running their hand around the edges so they can recognize what it is. These children are attracted to lights, they may stare at the sun or a bright light bulb. They are fascinated with reflections and bright colored objects. Having entered an unfamiliar room they have to walk around it touching everything before they settle down. Often they sit for hours moving fingers and objects in front of the eyes.

Hypohearing: We can often see children who 'seek sounds' (leaning their ear against electric equipment or enjoying crowds, sirens, etc.) They like kitchens and bathrooms - the 'noisiest' places in the house. They often create sounds themselves to stimulate their hearing - banging doors, tapping things, tearing or crumpling paper in the hand, making loud rhythmic sounds.

Hypotaste/Hyposmell: Children with hypotaste/hyposmell chew and smell everything they can get - grass, play dough, etc. They mouth and lick objects, play with feces, eat mixed food (e.g., sweet and sour), regurgitate.

Hypotactility: Those with hypotactility seem not to feel pain or temperature. They may not notice a wound caused by a sharp object or they seem unaware of a broken bone. They are prone to self-injuries and may bite their hand or bang their head against the wall, just to feel they are alive. They like pressure, tight clothes, often crawl under heavy objects. They hug tightly and enjoy rough and tumble play.

Vestibular hyposensitivity: They

They enjoy and seek all sort of movement and can spin or swing for a long time without being dizzy or nauseated. Autistic people with vestibular hyposensitivity often rock forth and back or move in circles while rocking their body.

Proprioceptive hyposensitivity: They have difficulty knowing where their bodies are in space and are often unaware of their own body sensations (e.g., they do not feel hunger). Children with hypoproprioceptive system appear floppy, often lean against people, furniture and walls. They bump into objects and people, stumble frequently, have tendency to fall. They have a weak grasp, drop things.

Delacato (1974) was one of the first researchers to suggest that hyper- and hyposensitivities experienced by autistic children caused all autistic behaviors, viz. withdrawal from social interaction, communication, stereotypic behaviors. He called these behaviors sensoryisms (sensorisms: blindisms - visual "isms", deafisms - auditory "isms", etc.) and considered them as the child's attempts to treat himself and either normalize his sensory channels or communicate his problems.

Autistic individuals often describe their stims as defensive mechanisms from hyper- or hyposensitivity. Sometimes they engage in these behaviors to suppress the pain or calm themselves down (in the case of hypersensitivity), sometimes to arouse the nervous system

and get sensory stimulation from the outside (in the case of hyposensitivity), and sometimes to provide themselves with internal pleasure.

Very often, therefore, these self-stimulatory behaviors, which are defined by non-autistic people as "bizarre behaviors" (such as rocking, spinning, flapping their hands, tapping things, watching things spin, etc.), can be viewed as involuntary strategies the child has acquired to cope with 'unwelcome stimulation' (hypersensitivity) or lack of it (hyposensitivity). That is why, no matter how irritating and meaningless these behaviors may seem to us, it is unwise to stop them without learning the function they serve and introducing experiences with the same function.

The stereotypies caused by sensory hyper- or hyposensitivity can involve one or all senses. If we interpret these behaviors, we will be able to imagine (if not fully comprehend) how the child perceives the world and help the child develop strategies to cope with these (often painful) sensitivities.


Delacato, C. (1974). The Ultimate Stranger. Noveto, CA: Academic Therapy Publications.

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