Understanding Sensory Trauma and Autism
Posted by Carolyn in News
People with developmental disabilities, including autism and intellectual disability, have been found to be three times more likely to experience trauma compared to their typically developing peers
(Hibbard and Desch, 2007; Reiter et al; 2007). Kerns et al (2017).
In this blog we’re going to look at sensory trauma & autism and hopefully provide some more understanding and practical strategies to support.
People with autism experience trauma as a result of a variety of situations / experiences including,
- Your autism not being recognised
- Your autism needs not being met
- Bullied because of your differences
- Feeling isolated and rejected,
- Being invalidated by family or friends,
Sensory trauma can come from ordinary events of everyday life which are experienced as trauma for autistic people. This can start very early in life.
Autistic individuals can be overwhelmed by one (or more) of the five senses, which can lead to a range of reactions, from anxiety to total distress.
Sensory trauma may be harder for neurotypical people to understand, as they are not affected by sensory difficulties in the same way, they may be unable to even pick up on it, which can lead to an inappropriate one or no response at all.
The unpredictability of the sensory world and their experience of it can make it feel threatening, which results in them being permanently on alert.
The impact of the above can be to feel unsafe in what should be a safe place, social interaction becomes progressively more difficult and traumatising. Autistic people may be spending their time anticipating or worrying about when the next distressing or overwhelming sensory might occur.
Having an understanding of this allows us to be more aware of what is going on around us and how this may affect other people.
Here are some autism trauma-informed care approaches,
- Recognise the signs and symptoms of trauma.
- Don’t always put it down to the autism recognise the impact of other life events on the autistic person.
- Seeks to support with Intolerance of uncertainty by providing structure and predictability.
- Be empathetic and seek to understanding how autism impacts upon the individual person from their perspective.
- Realises the full scope of the trauma and maps out paths for moving forward.
- Actively avoid exposing the autistic person to the events and experiences that could lead the to be re-traumatization.
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If you would like to hear more knowledge updates and great practice here’s a couple of great professional development events:
See Me – I am Here: More on Childhood Trauma and Recovery
23rdOctober 2023, Glasgow
Exploring Sexual Behaviour in Children and Young People
7thNovember 2023, North Wales
Both Courses: Supporting Children Displaying Problematic or Harmful Sexual Behaviour
Awesome CPD Events for teachers, social care workers and health professionals.Book now