This page is designed to answer the following questions:
- 1.2. Define what is meant by: hypersensitivity, hyposensitivity. (Level 2 Certificate in Understanding Autism, Sensory processing, perception and cognition in individuals with autism)
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Hypersensitivity and hyposensitivity are terms used to describe atypical levels of sensitivity to sensory stimuli, often observed in individuals with various neurological or developmental conditions, including autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Hypersensitivity refers to an increased or heightened sensitivity to sensory stimuli. Individuals with hypersensitivity may experience sensory input more intensely or profoundly than typically developing individuals. This heightened sensitivity can make everyday sensory experiences overwhelming, uncomfortable, or even painful.
For instance, in the context of auditory hypersensitivity, normal environmental sounds such as a ringing phone or background music might be perceived as excessively loud or intrusive. Similarly, for visual hypersensitivity, normal levels of lighting could be perceived as glaring and uncomfortable. Hypersensitivity can lead to sensory overload, resulting in stress, anxiety, or avoidance behaviors.
Hyposensitivity, on the other hand, denotes a decreased or diminished sensitivity to sensory stimuli. Individuals with hyposensitivity may require stronger, more intense sensory input to achieve the same level of response or awareness that others would experience with milder stimuli. They might not react to sensations that would typically elicit a response, such as not noticing a light touch or being indifferent to temperatures that would be uncomfortable for others. In some cases, individuals with hyposensitivity might actively seek out intense sensory experiences to satisfy their need for sensory input, which can manifest as preferences for strong tastes, deep pressure, or loud noises.
Both hypersensitivity and hyposensitivity can impact an individual’s interaction with their environment and can present challenges in daily activities and social interactions. It’s important to recognize that these sensitivities can vary greatly from person to person and can affect any of the sensory systems, including auditory, visual, tactile, olfactory, gustatory, proprioceptive, vestibular, and interoceptive systems. Understanding and accommodating these sensory processing differences are key in providing appropriate support for individuals experiencing them.