Sensory Framework

Hi – while I am not a clinician in any way, shape, or form, I do recognise that sensory issues are a huge part of life for most autistic people, and over the years have spoken to hundreds of individuals and families about sensory experiences. From this, and with a huge nod to the work of Olga Bogdashina, I have set out some questions around sensory experiences that some may find useful. Getting a good sensory profile to take needs into account at school, home, in the workplace – wherever – can have the potential to be of massive benefit. The questions are not exhaustive, of course, and some may be inapplicable – but, it’s a start, at the very least. If you wanted me to add to the questions with your own suggestions please free to comment, or email me – l.beardon@shu.ac.uk

Sensory Questionnaire

Please fill in comments on how you are affected in the following sensory areas. If you do not see any sensory issues under a particular heading simply leave blank. Please give as many examples as you can possibly think of. This can be filled in by an individual with autism, a parent, or both!

Touch

Do you show sensory sensitivity with touch? For example how do you react to the following?:

  • Material – do you show a preference/dislike to specific types?
  • Sleeves – do you need to have either short sleeves or long sleeves?
  • Do you find labels in clothes uncomfortable?
  • Do you mind seams in socks?
  • Tight / loose clothing -is there a preference?
  • Belts – do you feel a strong need to wear one?
  • Buttons – like/dislike?
  • Shoes – easy or not to buy new shoes? Do you like to take shoes off whenever possible? What about socks – are there similar issues?
  • Colour – is there a reaction to different colour of clothes?
  • Hats do you like to wear one? If so, why?
  • Trousers / shorts – is there a preference?

Is there an apparent lack of ability to dress appropriate to the weather?

Hugs – do you like them or not? Do they need to be a certain way?

Soft touches vs firm – is there a preference?

Are there any issues with the following?:

  • Skin on skin contact
  • Brushing past people
  • Proximity to people
  • Texture of food
  • Shape of food

Do you show extreme hypersensitivity, for example with touching of:

  • Hair
  • Nails
  • Teeth

Do you resist:

  • Getting hair wet
  • Having hair brushed
  • Having hair cut
  • Having nails cut

Auditory

Do you show intense hypersensitivity to a specific noise, e.g.:

  • Dogs barking
  • Paper tearing
  • Vacuum cleaners

Do you have an inability to separate sounds, e.g.:

  • Background noise
  • Extraneous auditory information
  • Voices

Do you hear noises that others cannot?

Do you love certain noises and seek them out?

Do you tune into certain noises and then appear not to hear anything else?

Will you listen to the same noise over and over again?

Do you ever cover ears in response to a noise – and, if so, what was the noise?

Olfactory

Do you use smell to recognise objects/people?

Is there extreme hypersensitivity – e.g. the ability to pick up smells that others cannot?

Are some smells overpowering?

Are certain smells greatly offensive?

Are certain smells sought out?

Taste

Do you use taste to recognise objects/people?

Does the texture of food matter?

Does the colour of food matter?

Are you a ‘fussy’ eater?

Does food need to be prepared in a certain way?

Do you insist on eating certain brands?

Can you differentiate between brands by taste (i.e. without seeing the packaging)?

Visual

Do you notice patterns in the surroundings?

Do you notice detail that others do not?

Do you like order – e.g. straight edges.

Will you rearrange the environment to suit his/her needs?

Do you get absorbed in looking at certain things?

Do flickering lights or screens bother you?

Vestibular

Do you rock/engage in rhythmical movements?

Do you flap? If so, when?

Do you love jumping up and down?

Do you ‘fear’ movements such as going down a slide?

Do you easily lose their balance?

Do you have difficulty in sitting still?

Proprioception

Will you misinterpret how much to flex or extend muscles when doing tasks?

Do you struggle with handwriting?

Do you frequently (accidentally) break things?

Do you miscalculate weight?

Do you use too much force, e.g. slamming doors or banging objects onto the table?

Do you tend to bump into people when walking, or veer off from a straight line?

Do you love deep pressure, e.g. strong hugs?

Do you seek small, enclosed spaces?

Do you walk on tip toes?

4 thoughts on “Sensory Framework”

  1. Hi Luke

    The sensory framework is great. Thank you. Many students I work with have not had the opportunity to reflect on this so it is really useful. I had not been able to find anything quite suitable to share with students relating to this, so it was on my list of things to develop. So really pleased you have put it on here.
    Some people have difficulty knowing when they are hungry or when the need to go to the toilet – do you think these things should go on the list? Not sure in which part though (?) I know Olga Bogdashina thinks this relates to sensory perceptual differences.
    Also perhaps sensitivity to sunlight included maybe (?) It is impossible to put everything on there though, like you say – it can’t really be exhaustive.
    I think it is also important to explain that the profile may change depending on circumstances – as sometimes people think it doesn’t apply if it doesn’t happen all the time or is consistent in all situations. I believe you think this – as you said it in a lecture, if I have understood you correctly 🙂 and I do find it is important to explain that to people first.
    I think the next step would be to talk about what might help 🙂 That would be a really useful list – particularly things that can be helpful but perhaps more discreet (for in the workplace etc). Whilst it would be great if no-one got concerned about stimming etc, they frequently do. Things like tight clothing, heavy rucsacks, stress balls, sunglasses, irlens lenses, flappy bits of paper or pieces of fabric, a quiet room (?)

    What do you think?

    Thank you
    Caroline

  2. I would suggest some more of what may be considered female-specific questions that may be relevant – perhaps questions about whether you have trouble finding comfortable bras, trouble walking in high heels or preferring to wear flat shoes all the time, and disliking the feeling of applying or wearing make-up and nail polish.

  3. I would like to second the suggestions about hunger and using the toilet. Also, not just walking into other people but also doorframes and other inanimate objects. I would also note that one can be oversensitive to one’s own smell; and this can lead to overuse of deodorants, fragrances, etc.

  4. Very helpful to have all the above list. Just wondering about more proprioceptive issues; such as sensitivity to wind/heat/cold. Also hyper or hypo-sensitivity to pain.

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