How Do You Get People to Understand Sensory Sensitivities?



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ValentineWiggin
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14 Oct 2011, 12:53 pm

Last week, my mother criticized me for having to leave an extremely-crowded restaurant with a screaming baby where we were waiting for a table. She likewise insists on opening the curtains in my bedroom at their house, even after I close them, to let the sun come blazing in everywhere. Their house, yes. But still.

My boyfriend, likewise, seems oblivious to how abrasive I find overhead lighting, and even slightly annoyed when I ask him to turn them off.

How do I get them to understand that those types of things physically hurt me?
I can't overcome the sense that they, especially my mother, will think I'm making it up for attention since I've been dxed Aspie,
whereas in reality I've always been this way, and having the label of Autism (as silly as it sounds) was what gave me "permission" to acknowledge my differences as legitimate, and ask for understanding and some slight accommodations for them.

This might be more suited to the General Autism Discussion forum,
but I put it here because I think it's relevant-
whether Autistic or no, it seems to me that allowances are more often made for children's comfort ("my daughter says her sweater is too scratchy", etc) than for adults with similar issues- my perception is we're just considered picky or bothersome.


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DC
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14 Oct 2011, 12:57 pm

Strap two smoke alarms to their head so they understand what sensory overload feels like.



ValentineWiggin
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14 Oct 2011, 1:15 pm

DC wrote:
Strap two smoke alarms to their head so they understand what sensory overload feels like.


I wonder, really, how many children are considered behaviorally-disordered or some such BS when they actually have sensory sensitivities, related to Autism or no. Mainstream culture seems so indifferent to the idea that people really do experience things differently, and it's not "all in their head", so to speak.


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hartzofspace
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14 Oct 2011, 1:35 pm

I struggle with this every day. My landlord actually said that I was becoming a problem with my noise complaints. Nothing bad to say about the people making the noise, unfortunately. :x


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purchase
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14 Oct 2011, 2:16 pm

ValentineWiggin wrote:
Mainstream culture seems so indifferent to the idea that people really do experience things differently, and it's not "all in their head", so to speak.


Exactly. Quite frustrating. I don't think I've successfully gotten anyone to understand my sensory sensitivities who didn't already have some of their own, to answer the question.



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14 Oct 2011, 2:51 pm

The assumption is that, as an adult, you should be reasonably able to tolerate things such as crying children, loud sounds, and/or other unfortunate distractions. But underlying that assumption is the notion that these things aren't harmful to you, so people assume you're simply being unreasonable. It's problematic that the burden of showing their ideas are illogical is on you, because, personally, I feel it's a waste of time to have to explain this to people.

Just like one can have an idea of what 'hot' is and a tolerance level for it on their body, so too do their other sensory receptions have distinctive limits. They make the error of thinking your limits are the same as their own. For example, if I poured boiling hot water on their skin, they would likely recoil and claim it was painful. But just because it must be boiling for one to be in pain doesn't mean that, for me, boiling is the upper limit; I might be in pain at lower levels of heat - because how I experience heat may be more intense. This is an analogous argument of how different intensities of sensory input may be painful to different people.

In a different way, people are familiar with the idea of allergies. That is, the introduction of elements the body considers 'foreign' may have adverse effects on its health. For someone like you, not only may the intensity of a sensory experience be stronger and thus more likely to cause pain, but the introduction of unexpected, foreign elements to your senses may also cause a strong reaction. Being someone who is likely able to notice such details, even if just in the background, with higher intensity, it can not only be painful, but a pain which cannot be tuned out or dealt with. The easiest solution, then, is just to get up and leave.

That's my attempt to explain it in a more understandable way, though I suspect there are better ones.



Apple_in_my_Eye
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14 Oct 2011, 3:55 pm

Another example of failure of NT empathy.

Since they can't directly experience things as you do, they'll never truly understand. Therefore, it's going to require some blind faith on their part -- a.k.a. respect for you -- that you are not exaggerating or making things up.

So, I guess the real question is how to get them to do *that*, then. Unfortunately, I don't have any good answers for that.

I think for parents their mindset is, basically, "the world is hard and you don't know how hard -- you don't get to have every tiny, little thing your way all the time." IOW, they interpret it as wanting a level of comfort that higher than normal -- sort of a "luxurious" level of comfort.

My parents seemed to "lighten up" a bit that way when they saw me handle some adult situations in a competent manner. The concept of having sensory (and other) hypersensitivities while at the same time being a competent adult seemed like a contradiction to them until they saw otherwise. Honestly, they're still not so great about that, but are better than when I was in my 20's. I was lucky though, in that I was able to pull off a few such things (i.e. college) before total burnout happened.



Nier
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15 Oct 2011, 4:32 am

DC wrote:
Strap two smoke alarms to their head so they understand what sensory overload feels like.


Heh, +1 for this. I had to disarm my smoke alarm last night 'cause the battery was going flat, and the bleeping sound was painful. New battery due today, but the fact that just that sound could send me into an unreasonably angry zone would be incomprehensible to many people.

How to explain how sounds, sights and smells can make you feel physically hurt / sick, and how the fight-or-flight startled response reaction kicks in for many stimuli ...? That would require smoke alarms strapped to head whilst someone punches them in the stomach & tells them off afterwards for being an over-reacting, attention-seeking lightweight :roll:



Ann2011
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15 Oct 2011, 10:13 am

It's so frustrating! Yesterday I saw my counselor and I was talking about a situation where I was in an auditorium and the hum of the vent system was making it impossible for me to focus on anything else. He looked confused and asked me to explain. When I said the sound was hurting me, he looked at my like I was from Mars. Scheesh - he's my counselor for goodness sakes and he knows I have Asperger's, but he just didn't understand at all.



hartzofspace
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15 Oct 2011, 11:45 am

Nier wrote:
I had to disarm my smoke alarm last night 'cause the battery was going flat, and the bleeping sound was painful. New battery due today, but the fact that just that sound could send me into an unreasonably angry zone would be incomprehensible to many people.

I once rented a studio apartment with a shared bathroom that connected to another studio apartment. When I first moved in, the other apartment was empty. And the smoke alarm battery in there was running out of juice. The beeping was driving me up the wall. I called the landlord to tell them, and they just thought I was crazy, because they couldn't believe that I could hear it, let alone that it could bother me that much. But they wouldn't do anything about it. So I found that the door was unlocked and went in and disconnected the battery. Unfortunately, they found out and re-connected it, instead of putting in a new one. :evil:
Nier wrote:
IHow to explain how sounds, sights and smells can make you feel physically hurt / sick, and how the fight-or-flight startled response reaction kicks in for many stimuli ...? That would require smoke alarms strapped to head whilst someone punches them in the stomach & tells them off afterwards for being an over-reacting, attention-seeking lightweight :roll:


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Nier
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17 Oct 2011, 9:05 am

hartzofspace wrote:
I once rented a studio apartment with a shared bathroom that connected to another studio apartment. When I first moved in, the other apartment was empty. And the smoke alarm battery in there was running out of juice. The beeping was driving me up the wall. I called the landlord to tell them, and they just thought I was crazy, because they couldn't believe that I could hear it, let alone that it could bother me that much. But they wouldn't do anything about it. So I found that the door was unlocked and went in and disconnected the battery. Unfortunately, they found out and re-connected it, instead of putting in a new one. :evil:


Ouch. IMO you'd have been acting reasonably and proportionately if you took a hammer to the darned thing :x
Mine nearly didn't make it because I couldn't get the cover off, it was late at night and I was close to smashing it just to stop the sound!
As to not being believed, it's curious to me that spectrumites are the ones commonly described as 'self'ish or unable to understand the world from another's point of view, and yet with sensory problems we too often find that the majority of NTs do precisely that. Or are we only selfish for not understanding NTs, whereas it doesn't actually matter the other way round ?
Hmm. I'll go and have a cup of tea with my blissfully quiet smoke alarm still hanging in pieces from the ceiling and ponder the inexplicable one-sidedness of expectations.
:scratch:



hartzofspace
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17 Oct 2011, 10:42 am

Nier wrote:
hartzofspace wrote:
I once rented a studio apartment with a shared bathroom that connected to another studio apartment. When I first moved in, the other apartment was empty. And the smoke alarm battery in there was running out of juice. The beeping was driving me up the wall. I called the landlord to tell them, and they just thought I was crazy, because they couldn't believe that I could hear it, let alone that it could bother me that much. But they wouldn't do anything about it. So I found that the door was unlocked and went in and disconnected the battery. Unfortunately, they found out and re-connected it, instead of putting in a new one. :evil:


Ouch. IMO you'd have been acting reasonably and proportionately if you took a hammer to the darned thing :x
Mine nearly didn't make it because I couldn't get the cover off, it was late at night and I was close to smashing it just to stop the sound!
As to not being believed, it's curious to me that spectrumites are the ones commonly described as 'self'ish or unable to understand the world from another's point of view, and yet with sensory problems we too often find that the majority of NTs do precisely that. Or are we only selfish for not understanding NTs, whereas it doesn't actually matter the other way round ?
Hmm. I'll go and have a cup of tea with my blissfully quiet smoke alarm still hanging in pieces from the ceiling and ponder the inexplicable one-sidedness of expectations.
:scratch:

:lol:


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turingtest
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27 Nov 2011, 12:07 am

Nier wrote:
Heh, +1 for this. I had to disarm my smoke alarm last night 'cause the battery was going flat, and the bleeping sound was painful. New battery due today, but the fact that just that sound could send me into an unreasonably angry zone would be incomprehensible to many people.


Ugh, I know. I have a hard time even approaching a smoke alarm going off because the sound is so painful. It makes almost a wall in front of me that crossing through is like torture (which seems like it would be counterproductive in a real fire, right?). Fire alarms and car alarms definitely send me into full on pathetic "I don't know what's happening but I would give anything to make it stop" mode. I keep accidentally triggering my car alarm and then having a little mini-meltdown trying to figure out which button I'm meant to press to make the beeping end.

And yeah, I can tell people around me just think I'm being a baby :(



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27 Nov 2011, 5:33 am

I've had the thought of making and youtube-posting a little video... where normal everyday stuff is going on, including a person talking, but then the volume for intrusive sounds (clock chiming, etc.) is way up in comparison to the person talking, and then the lighting becomes incredibly bright and flashing, and somebody else starts talking at the same time, and then through all this at the end the person talking asks what is wrong with you for not digesting what they are saying or looking distracted! This is in response to a comment from my NT friend thoughtfully saying he cannot envision sensory overload... I thought of at least starting with WHAT it can be like to lead up to the overload. Would be educational, and not take much to do... (For ideal effect, viewers should wear sandpaper and put out a dish of smoked mackerel (pungent smell) at the same time... !)



kurai
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27 Nov 2011, 8:24 am

most reactions i get are about my light sensitivity. i often been asked why i never turn on my celing lights, just the small one on my desk and why i never open my curtains. well, it's easy to explain - because i don't like bright light, it hurts me. but no nt seems to understand. while they walk around covering their ears if a fire truck passes by (funny thing is, that this is nothing special for me because the whole "outside world" is so very loud, it doesn't stand out - to me it's equal to all the annoying noisyness around) ... they are allowd to behave like that, because it is a "special noise" and i shall adjust to (in my perception) f*****g extreme light levels and keep my mouth shut? errrrh. -.-



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