HypoSensitivity or HyperSensitivity?

Nov 23 , 2021

Julie-Anne Dietz

HypoSensitivity or HyperSensitivity?

Julie-Anne Dietz

23 November, 2021

As a schoolteacher of 25 years, my experiences teaching my ASD students really transitioned from my early teaching days.

I love teaching, I love the daily challenges and triumphs and there were few better feelings than seeing the delight of achievement from everyone in my classes, no matter what their circumstances.

Where do I find help?

It would be fair to say that the available information on ASD was limited in my early days. Many a time I would leave my class in the evening scratching my head about where to get the best information on my students displaying ASD traits. I always felt the more I understood, the more assistance I was going to be able to offer.

Of more recent times my own educational journey has led me to explore the difference between HypoSensitivity and HyperSensitivity.

What I discovered is that Autistic people can experience both hypersensitivity (over-responsiveness) and hyposensitivity (under-responsiveness) to a wide range of stimuli in a variety of environments. Most people have a combination of both.

I came across a concept called sensory avoidance. This is when the stimuli is so overwhelming that people will try to avoid it. I regularly notice some of my students pulling away from physical touch, avoiding some forms of material and covering their ears and eyes so as not to hear or see the stimulus that was troubling them. I found out this is called hypersensitivity. Whilst I never liked labelling my students by more fully understanding their condition and assigning a medically approved title to their behaviours I was able to exercise strategies to improve their educational experience. 

I had also heard of a term called hyposensitivity. I am sure we can remember the times when we felt a little “hypo, ” where stimming and over abundant movement is a feature of having too much energy or boredom.

I remember a child in one of my year 2 class I taught and for Craig hypersensitivity was his challenge. Craig constantly had ants in his pants – he was on the move all the time, unable to sit quietly for any length of time. He was constantly seeking stimuli, loved the sense of touch, he rocked back and forth and would yell in class. I learnt that Craig was hyposensitive.

In my classrooms, at least, there was a greater prevalence of hyposensitivity, but I also learnt how important it was to cater to both of the conditions.

What do sensory issues look like?

Ok so I had now established that these reactions were almost polar opposites, so I needed to find out what their worlds looked like on a daily basis so that I could assist them more in our schooling setting.

By understanding my hypersensitive students I realised they had to work extremely hard to merely function in a room full of stimuli. How could I adjust things sufficiently to make learning better for them? From the fluorescent lights, noisy classroom conversations and crowded spaces I found my hypersensitive students exhausted just coping and unable to complete any other tasks due to being overwhelmed.

At the same time my hyposensitive students were the ones most labelled as being naughty. Constantly being on the move can sometimes seem inappropriate or disruptive and then in an effort to comply feel they need to suppress their stimming and to self-regulate, leading to sensory overload.  It is like a vicious cycle, they need to release and when they bottle things up, there is a build up and normally some sort of explosion.

How can we help?

Given my past experiences and understandings, I now love the fact that we can assist teachers and families to manage the ASD behaviours of hypersensitivity and hyposensitivity.

I wish some of these great products were more available when I was back teaching. I thoroughly enjoy knowing more about our ASD community and helping families and teachers to help them find products that may assist.

Great DEO products for hypersensitivity:

Here are some products your can consider for ASD kids with hypersensitivity. (If you are interested in a particular item - hover over the product name to find the link to the DEO Store.)

 

Hart Foam Furniture

Great DEO products for hyposensitivity

Here are some products your can consider for ASD kids with hyposensitivity.(If you are interested in a particular item - hover over the product name to find the link to the DEO Store.)

 

Calming Cloud Beanbag

If you need assistance or anymore information please do not hesitate to reach out to me at hello@disabilityequiponline.com.au or give me a call on 1300 946 745.

Julie-Anne

Owner – DEO