Aspergers Checklist: Sensory Sensitivities

"Is it common for a child with Aspergers to be very picky about things, for example, will only eat certain foods ...will only wear certain clothes ...etc.?"

The short answer is 'yes'. What you're referring to here is called "sensory sensitivities," which refers to any abnormalities of the senses (i.e., sight, sound, smell, touch, or taste) a child with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism may have. The Aspergers child generally has difficulty in at least one of these areas, though the degree will vary from person to person. Some children may have difficulty in multiple - or even all - areas. 

For example, the child may perceive ordinary sensations as unbearably intense, in which case he will begin to anticipate these experiences, feeling anxious well before the experience occurs. It will be very important to determine if the response is due to sensory or behavioral (learned) difficulties. Often a behavior may initially stem from sensory difficulties, but then becomes a learned behavior (habit). How you address the behavior will depend on which it is.

Here is a sensory sensitivity checklist (the Aspergers child will not usually have all of these traits):

1. Has difficulty in visual areas:
  • Engages in intense staring.
  • Avoids eye contact.
  • Stands too close to objects or people.
  • Displays discomfort/anxiety when looking at certain pictures (e.g., the child feels as if the visual experience is closing in on him).

2. Has difficulty in auditory areas:
  • Covers ears when certain sounds are made.
  • Displays extreme fear when unexpected noises occur.
  • Displays an inability to focus when surrounded by multiple sounds (e.g., shopping mall, airport, party).
  • Purposely withdraws to avoid noises.
  • Is fearful of the sounds particular objects make (e.g., vacuum, blender, DustBuster).

3. Has difficulty in olfactory areas:
  • Finds some smells so overpowering or unpleasant that he becomes nauseated.
  • Displays a strong olfactory memory.
  • Can recognize smells before others.
  • Needs to smell foods before eating them.
  • Needs to smell materials before using them.

4. Has difficulty in tactile areas:
  • Has difficulty when touched by others, even lightly (especially shoulders and head).
  • Displays anxiety when touched unexpectedly.
  • Complains of clothing feeling like sandpaper.
  • Has difficulty accepting new clothing (including for change of seasons).
  • Has difficulty with clothing seams or tags.
  • Does not respond to temperature appropriately.
  • Underreacts to pain.
  • Overreacts to pain.
  • Has difficulty using particular materials (e.g., glue, paint, clay).
  • Complains of a small amount of wetness (e.g., from the water fountain, a small spill).

5. Has difficulty in gustatory areas:
  • Makes limited food choices.
  • Will only tolerate foods of a particular texture or color.
  • Needs to touch foods before eating them.
  • Displays unusual chewing and swallowing behaviors.
  • Has rigidity issues tied in with limited food preferences (e.g., this is the food he always has, it is always this brand, and it is always prepared and presented in this way).
  • Cannot allow foods to touch each other on the plate.
  • Must eat each individual food in its entirety before the next.
  • Has an easily activated gag/vomit reflex.

6. Engages in self-stimulatory behaviors (e.g., rocking, hand movements, facial grimaces).

7. Is oversensitive to environmental stimulation (e.g., changes in light, sound, smell, location of objects).

8. Is undersensitive to environmental stimulation (e.g., changes in light, sound, smell, location of objects).


•    Anonymous said... Absolutely. It may not be for everything, but for certain things in particular. My son, will not wear jeans EVER and only wants to wear basketball-type shorts, but will eat almost anything. It just depends on the child.
•    Anonymous said... Being a parent of an Aspergers child, you need to always think outside the box when your child seems to react differently to things you wouldn't think would be a big deal.
•    Anonymous said... Describes my daughter's sensory issues perfectly
•    Anonymous said... Funny everyone says about the jeans.... Mine won't wear shorts! Even on a really hot day, he still wears jeans and he's super obsessed with minecraft and other electronic games but he's pretty good with eating almost any food.
•    Anonymous said... Mine will wear jeans but they absolutely must be of a certain weight and texture. Thankfully, her diet is varied enough to cover the bases and is relatively healthy. She definitely sticks to the same foods & brands!
•    Anonymous said... My son 9, always makes strange sounds when he eats! He doesn't like food touching & will only eat food prepared the same way eg: raw carrots. He is also obsessed with minecraft & is so precise with everything.
•    Anonymous said... my son absolutely refuses to use public washrooms
•    Anonymous said... My son can't wear any shirts w/ a tag. Has a hard time eating cold items foods.
•    Anonymous said... My son doesn't like jeans either, prefers to wear soft jogging bottoms, otherwise has to have his belt as tight as possible. He thinks they will fall down otherwise, even if the adjustable buttons inside are done up as tight as possible! Breakfast is worst time of day for us. He will only eat one thing for months on end until he hates it and then we have to find something else
•    Anonymous said... My son hates jeans..and has a very limited diet of "white foods" x
•    Anonymous said... My son would only wear soft shirts, no collars, hates buttons, no tags and must use only mechanical pencils. He likes baggy jeans but must have his belt pulled as tight as possible. When he was younger, he hated being dirty, hated loud sounds, hated things out of order, everything had a place...I thought in the beginning he was OCD. And food was always a big issues but that is getting better with age.
•    Anonymous said... Our sons are very similar in their texture sensitivities.
•    Anonymous said... So funny everyone seems to b mentioning jeans. Mine won't wear it either. He wears his school uniform everywhere. Since it is Dickies pants, I'm fine w that. I see the similarity in Dickies and jeans. But it's a huge difference to him. Food is a big issue w us. More comes off his list every year, but doesn't seem to replace it w anything healthy. He's 16 and still eats like a toddler. No casseroles, cause that mixes food, yet he loves pizza/hamburgers/tacos big time! We only fast food once a week. But he asks for it every day!
•    Anonymous said... That's too funny... My boy is 16 and that is all he will wear, i.e. jeans, but they can only be from a particular place and a particular brand. Let me tell you, only being able to shop at one place to buy him jeans has not been easy over the years. Just like Lori, mine is into all that "junk food" stuff, pizza, tacos, macaroni and cheese, pasta roni, etc., but, from what I hear, I have gotten lucky because he will at least try different things.
•    Anonymous said... Wow, I always thought we were the only anti-jeans home.
•    Anonymous said... Yes and then some. It's a challenge, but you must plan for it and/or around it; use everything you can to plan and to make the environment comfortable to your child. Prepare others in his world with the info they need to know as they meet and/or interact with your child.
•    Anonymous said... Yes and you will also find they can get obsessed about certain things and talk on that subject all day, my youngest is Thomas and Ninjago, 2 topics that have had to be band from the dinner table.
•    Anonymous said... Yes definitely, they are all different. My son won't wear jeans at all, completely refuses. They are "too tight" even if they are super light and big with a wide cotton waistband. One example of many. But he will eat anything- he's less orally sensitive though. There can be a hundred different sensitivities - an occupational therapist can test for those.
•    Anonymous said... Yes my 8 year old will never wear jeans either
•    Anonymous said... Yes strict routines, only wears certain clothes so make sure you buy lots of sizes in their choice, have a buffet style dinner so no foods touch each other etc
•    Anonymous said... yes, my son, 9, is bothered even by tagless underwear sometimes, and would not wear anything that would make a sound when he moves since he is hypersensitive to sounds. He is also hypersensitive to smells and would rarely eat while at school
•    Anonymous said... Yes. As they get older it changes a bit.
•    Anonymous said... Yes. Ritual and routine are very important. My son would melt down if he couldn't use a certain bathroom at home. He had to do things in a certain order before school with no variation. He is getting better now at calming if some break in routine is necessary.

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