Day #48 – Over and Under

It’s time to get a bit scientific.  I’m not a scientist -so this has been a VERY steep learning curve.  My goal is to explain  all of this sensory business.   It’s time to write more about diagnosis and provide some symptom specific lists.  Remember when I talked with the OT for nearly two hours on the phone (see Day 4 – Round Up to the Test)?  Well, I’m pretty sure she had a list from  That is why the conversation lasted so long.

I’m using that same list in the coming days.  First, I’ll explain the concept, tell a short story about how Tucker fits each troubled area, and then check off his ‘symptoms’ – or at least the symptoms that he began with.

Sensory stuff is cool and crazy.  The deal is this, we ALL have sensory issues.  Tucker often argues that everyone is on the spectrum -but that he just needs a little extra help and love.  There is truth in what he says.  Do you hate how yogurt feels in your mouth?  Mashed potatoes?  Do you hate the feel of jeans and strongly dislike elastic at the bottom of your sweatpants?  Does going into Best Buy nearly put you into a full-blown anxiety attack because of the lights, noise, people, and smells? Do you hate tags on your shirts?

Yes?  Well then – you are experiencing sensory difficulties.  Most of us can continue to live and process information, folks on the spectrum cannot.  They need extra help and love.

To help explain this phenomenon, first I have to explain terminology.  Lots of researchers, advocates, moms, dads, teachers, and therapists use different terms to refer to the same idea.  Generally we refer to sense difficulty as being:


A hyposensitive child may constantly fidget and touch things in an effort to send more information to a sensory starved brain.  On the other hand, s/he might also be lethargic and slow because the brain has filtered out too much information and doesn’t react to the environment “at the correct speed.” (


A hypersensitive child might have an emotional meltdown when entering the cafeteria due to the sensory overload of sight, sound, and smell (and fear of being touched/bumped).  This wild response (as with withdrawal in some situations) is an attempt to shut out the high load of incoming stimuli. (

During the next couple of months I will explain each of the following senses in more ‘hyper/hypo’ detail:

  • Vestibular:  equilibrium, gravitational changes, movement experiences, and position in space
  • Proprioception:  body position, weight, pressure, stretch, movement, and changes in position in space
  • Auditory:  hearing difficulty without designation of hearing loss
  • Touch: activation of senses by nerve endings includes skin, tongue, throat, mucosa
  • Oral/Taste:  the ability to detect taste of substances
  • Olfactory:  the ability to smell
  • Visual:  the ability to focus and detect images
  • Interoceptive:  our body’s ability to (or not) regulate internal functions

I will also provide information about:

  • Auditory-Language Dysfunction
  • Social, Emotional, Play and Self Regulation Dysfunction

Before delving further, we also need to understand the ‘Five Caveats’ to Sensory Dysfunction.  In Carol Kranowitz’s groundbreaking book, The Out of Sync Child, she put forth:

  1. The child with sensory dysfunction does not necessarily exhibit every characteristic. Thus, the child with vestibular dysfunction may have poor balance but good muscle tone.
  2. Sometimes the child will show characteristics of a dysfunction one day but not the next. Inconsistency is a hallmark of every neurological dysfunction.
  3. The child may exhibit characteristics of a particular dysfunction yet not have that dysfunction. For example, the child who typically withdraws from being touched may seem to be hypersensitive to tactile stimulation but may, instead, have an emotional problem.
  4. The child may be both hypersensitive and hyposensitive. For instance, the child may be extremely sensitive to light touch, jerking away from a soft pat on the shoulder, while being rather indifferent to the deep pain of an inoculation.
  5. Everyone has some sensory integration problems now and then, because no one is well-regulated all the time. All kinds of stimuli can temporarily disrupt normal functioning of the brain, either by overloading it with, or by depriving it of, sensory stimulation. (

It’s time to really get started.  Tomorrow?  An introduction to the vestibular sense.

3 thoughts on “Day #48 – Over and Under

  1. Pingback: Day #213 – Like Pulling Teeth | 366 Days of Autism

  2. Pingback: Day #224 – Socks | 366 Days of Autism

  3. Pingback: Day #327 – Indexing | 366 Days of Autism

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