Sensory processing 🧠 & Sensory processing differences, explained simply.
I think many people find sensory processing tricky to understand, so I have written a straight forward piece about this topic.
Sensory Processing and sensory processing differences might be something you have never heard of before, or it might not be something you have not ever thought about or considered. Many autistic people will encounter some form of sensory processing differences, that said sensory processing differences are not unique to just autistic people.
What is sensory processing?
well everyone’s body receives sensory messages from all their senses, these messages then travel up to everyone’s nervous system. The nervous system receives these messages and then processes them. Everyone’s nervous system turns these messages into a motor behavior response. Motor responses form everyone’s body movements, for instance picking up and a drink and drinking it.
What are sensory processing differences?
(SPD) happens when a person’s body sends sensory messages from their senses to the person’s nervous system, just like everyone’s body does. When this is sent to the person’s nervous system, this is the point that the differences happen. The sensory messages are either not detected, by the nervous system, or the sensory messages don’t get organised into the correct responses. The sensory messages become confused and mixed up, the sensory messages can even get, jumbled and backed or processed more slowly. (Jean Ayres PhD http://www.spdstar.org) says it like a neurological “traffic jam” that prevents certain parts of the brain from receiving the information needed to interpret sensory information correctly.
Let’s look at the senses that everyone’s body has, this is a surprise to most people to find out everyone has eight sensory systems, yes! Eight!
Most people might be able to name a couple of the senses, and other people might know about and even understand the first five basic senses (listed 1-5 below) That’s not where it ends, as there are three more. Most people have not heard of, and likely not even considered these extra three senses (listed below6-8) of;
6. Vestibular (sense of head space and movement, balance, orientation)
7. proprioceptive (sensations from muscles and joints of the body)
8. Interoception (physiological, physical conditions of the body, hunger, heart rate ect.)
If we go back and think about the sensory messages being sent by everyone’s senses, to the bodies nervous system which then turns into a motor response. The motor response is a movement, that the person wants to happen. Now consider these extra three senses, that most people take for granted and are often not even aware of. You can now see how they would relate to the motor responses, for instance interoception will tell you when you are feeling hungry.
The other sensory difference is the degree at which things are felt and experienced, when there are sensory differences present. This means some people’s nervous systems will interpret the sensory messages, as either hypersensitive which means the person with sensory differences will feel things more acutely. Than a person that doesn’t have sensory processing differences. Hyposensitive which means the person with sensory differences will feel things less, than a person that doesn’t have sensory processing differences.
All eight sensory systems can be affected from (SPD) this does not mean that one person will have all eight senses affected, although that can happen. Some people’s nervous system might only have difficulties receiving sensory messages from one or two different senses.
I hope this helps to explain why things are so difficult for autistic people in certain environments.
Girls Autistic Journey 🖤