Different sensing & perceiving

There is a lot of research into sensory issues in autism.  This can relate to issues with acquiring sensory information, to processing sensory information, and to the impact altered sensory processes might have on other aspects of thinking, feeling speech, language, and other levels of nervous system function.  Some research suggests that aspects of sensory function may be superior in people with autism compared to people whose development was more typical in this regard.

Acquiring Sensory Information: There is research on hearing, abnormal sensing of pain, proprioception, taste and smell touch, and vision.

Processing Sensory Information: Some researchers have observed differences in the ways people with autism process sensory information.  These findings relate in particular to the elementary ways in which sensory signals get into the brain.   Findings include

  • different thresholds for perceiving patterns (e.g.,  motion coherence)
  • differences in visual acuity (Ashwin 2008 – tk p 12)

Superior sensory processing: A small but growing body of work addresses enhanced sensory-perceptual capabilities in autism. A free online article on the “intense world” theory of autism.

Impacts of altered sensory processes on other neurofunctional processing:  Since sensory information is the brain’s gateway to understanding the world, if its elementary processing occurs differently in autism, this could affect all mental processing that occurs downstream of sensation — which includes just about everything the brain does.  Thus sensory processing abnormalities could underlie core features of autism such as communication issues, problems with facial recognition, issues in picking up social cues, issues in understanding language, and issues related to processing bodily stimuli and coordinating physical movement.



What might cause altered acquisition of sensory information?

  • Molecules
    • Genes
    • Environment
  • Physiology
  • Stress

What might cause sensory processing problems? tk

  • Neuronal issues
  • Glial issues
  • Network issues
  • Molecules, physiology, Stress


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