The Pains (and Joys) of Autism

autism emotions

Persons on the spectrum are often stereotyped as being hypersensitive to the world around them. The simplest touch or texture can send them into a bout of anxiety, typified by arm flapping, yelling, and other forms of self-stimulation.

What most people don’t realize, however, is that for every hypersensitive person with autism, there is one who is hyposensitive. The distinction is immensely important for health practitioners when treating these individuals.

Hyposensitivity is the complement to hypersensitivity; it is a condition in which the person is not highly attuned to their own body. As a result, problems like toothaches and broken bones can sometimes go unnoticed for a long period of time. Combine this with the further limitation of non-verbality, and you get a good picture of Saskia Baron’s life with her older brother Timothy.

Timothy is both hypo-sensitive and primarily non-verbal. These impediments put him at great danger because he is not only challenged to say what he feels, but he does not always interpret sensations as being painful to begin with.

Though he lives in a home with highly attentive staff, medical issues sometimes go unnoticed by his doctors because they do not always get feedback from Timothy regarding the existence of certain problems.

In her article, Baron emphasizes the importance of educating medical workers about the multi-faceted ways in which a person on the spectrum may communicate or perceive their pain. A lack of understanding between carers and patients is often the reason that problems slip by unnoticed.

Recent developments such as Books Beyond Words and visual pain scales have helped to alleviate the risks of injury and illness in autism. However, the medical sphere has a long way to go before it can accurately comprehend and identify all of the individual’s needs.

By Sara Power, Fordham University

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