A classic autistic characteristic is that of sensory difference “Many people on the autism spectrum have difficulty processing everyday sensory information. Any of the senses may be over- or under-sensitive, or both, at different times. These sensory differences can affect behaviour, and can have a profound effect on a person’s life” so says the National Autistic Society.
A major part of this is ‘too much information’. Too many things, happening too quickly. Personally I find discount retailers who arrange stock by size rather than by design very difficult. Everything is on top of everything else, there is no space to look at things and the queues are inevitably very long. The shops are noisy, chaotic and I would rather pay more so I don’t need to go through it.
Another one for me is hairdressers. I hate that it is so hard to book in advance. I don’t want to have to go into a busy place and have to wait for an unknown amount of time. I often walk past multiple times until I find one that looks quiet.
Then there is all the distractions. I find it extremely hard to focus if there is a repetitive sound (birds, traffic, builders), if it is dark or if it is cold. I find a conversation happening across a room often is a barrier from the conversation I am in. I find it hard to sleep in the summer as I still need layers of bedding so I don’t feel my own breath on my body.
Another thing people comment on is the physical flinch I do when I am touched by surprize. I would rather not shake hands but at least I get warning when I see a hand approach. I physically jolt when anyone touches my shoulder/back, then they feel embarrassed and I have no words to explain.
I always need to know how long something will take before I start it. How long is the chapter of the book? How long is the film? How long will the journey take? There is something lovely about reaching the end but I can’t do that if I don’t know when the end is. I check my watch every few minutes in the cinema, not because I am bored but because I want a progress report.
Essentially I need to be in a situation that I feel in control of or feel I can understand. This is why I don’t do parties. It is nothing personal, I would just rather be in my own space. To quote the Greatest Showman ‘this is me’