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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.

Post your comment below…


Anonymous said...

Yes, that's what my son does. He is very picky.

Anonymous said...

Yes, yes, and YES!

Anonymous said...

yes,my a/s hubby and children always been fussy and picky,

Anonymous said...

absolutely. textures, lights, noises.....

Anonymous said...

Has anyone else noticed sensory problems changing at about puberty?

Anonymous said...

Mine hasn't hit puberty yet, but I'm curious as to what I have to look forward to, lol.

Anonymous said...

My son rarely recognises when he is thirsty.Anyone else come across this one?
6 hours ago · Like

Anonymous said...

Yes: preferences for foods, fabric,textures,sounds,smells,etc... Often sensory processing issues

Anonymous said...

My son loves to play and lay on fabrics! He's only 5 but, has gotten to the point where he only eats a grilled cheese! If it's not completely done all over and cut in a certain way he won't eat it! Only drinks a certain drink etc.

Anonymous said...

I have two daughters on the spectrum the eldest has severe sensory issues toward clothes, bedding, towels, food, cutlery, cups, cotton wool, certain fabrics, sanitary wear the feel of glasses from the dishwasher.. smells, certain noises ie: trains, people eating, clocks ticking, trainers squeaking , certain foods too many name .. Plus not eating the ends of food sausages etc .. And all of this is at its highest peek during the menstrual cycle along with melt downs for at least 8 days !

Anonymous said...

She also likes tight fitting clothes but hates all labels and seems ... And yet the other daughter likes all food and drink and likes baggy clothes but dosen't like any loud noise at all !

Anonymous said...

my son used to eat only cheetos know everything has to be covered in ranch & i have him drink plenty of water he also takes adhd meds

Anonymous said...

Thats what I hear and find true to my son. He loves fruits and veggies raw. He is so particular about everything

Anonymous said...

My 14 yr old son is a "vegetarian" since 4 yrs old. Cannot stand to smell meat cooking. Will only eat the same bland foods like crackers, box cereal, box macaroni & cheese, cheese pizza, french fries, baby food sweet potatoes, choc milk. He has gag reflex also.

Anonymous said...

Puberty no fun,puberty bad.Really,in human language,puberty is a roller-coaster ride.I have noticed my aspie's sensitivities have grown since puberty kicked in gear.Thankfully no food issues.Just noises,crowds,lights,and more rigidity than ever.There is a great article on Asperger's and Puberty somewhere on here.Makes alot of sense when you read it.

Anonymous said...

We are up to 10 foods, all certain brands, hates socks and tags, can not open bag of chips in the same room, sensitive eyes to light, much of what its listed here.

Anonymous said...

My 14 year old son has issues with lying. He knows right from wrong but consistently lies. Even when we say he won't get in trouble if he just tells us the truth. We have to grill him for at least an hour for him to finally admit that he lied. He will believe his friends when they tell him things because he thinks whoever tells him first, even if it's not accurate, it has to be true because that's where he heard it first. Anyone else struggling with this too?

Sweet as "Candy" said...

My 12 year old aspergers boy will only eat pizza from 1-2 fast food chains, McDonald's pancakes, or taco bell ..It's gotten so bad that he eats out from fast food 3-4 times a week, no vegetables, no meat, only cheese pizza, he is now gaining too much weight help!

KcM said...

My cousin has a child that has many of these symptoms. How do I bring it up to her in a sensitive way? I obviously love her and her son and do not want to seem rude but I do believe she turns a blind eye to his sensitivities since he is her first child.

Concerned said...

My 4 year old is the same, only fries and nuggets from Mcdonalds, only cheese pizza( any toppings and he freaks), Mac and cheese, two flavors of chips, certain alfredo, eggs, Rare occasions he will have cereal, pancakes and oatmeal

Unknown said...

My son is Senstivive to Hammers banging his eyes blink everytime it does He hates the sound of the vaccum only eats certain types of food Or wont eat at all if it isnt The right type Hates to wear clothes depressed anxiety And Hated to be around others

Unknown said...

My 11 yr old son likes to feel his food esp mashed potato before he eats it ....can this be a symptom of something ?? Any replys appreciated thanks

Unknown said...

My son had been in a.z.e.I.p. Program us blake foundation for speech therapy and developmental delay and sensory issues. He has never been diagnosed. He has been in program since a year old then put in special ed preschool before age 3. He finally started talking at age 4. He would close his hands and could not open them and held a brush everywhere he went. We switched it with a toy hammer so he wasnt always holding mommys brush. He would tantrum uncontrollably for hours and noises any kind even group singing scared him and he cover his ears cry n rock himself back and forth. He tested out of special ed in kindergarten and is with regular class and now attends third grade and age 9. He talk a lot. Very smart. But has trouble making friends. Has no interest in sports or playing what the other kids are playing. He just wants to draw all day n make projects and play minecraft. He still tantrums and freaks out on loud noises holding his ears and crying. He rocks back and forth when upset crying. He screams and fights for no reason and constantly battles with us. His hand sensory issues...well he draws but uses holds his pencil in a weird way and draws backwards using his right hand. And he cannot button his pants or tie his shoes...has trouble holding things. When he walks he kinda hunches and hokds his hands towards his chest in a shy kinda way and contantly touches his hands together. I have to help him dress...put his belt things arent his way he gets out of hand and yells and screams and makes a big deal out of nothing. He overreacts to the littlest things. N cried when barely even being touched. A lot of people have asked me if he was autistic but I had never had him diagnosed...and a counselor let him and asked me if he has aspergers and told me it was a mild form of austism. So I was trying to figure out if this is what he may have. He even talk about halloween all year every day...nonstop lol.

Rain man 4 /5 said...

My 7 yr old boy has 4 out of the 5 senses issues. They are extreme he also has repetive ritals.since age 2. He suffers from autism adhd and highly intelligent for his age did I mention obsessed with any true fact information. I.e. how a toilet bowl works from beginning all the way to the sewerage systems. Etc. Seriously atoms and astronomy give him a fiction book and is not interested. Anyone have these exact issues with 4 out of 5 sensory issues and high iq for age. Just curious to see if I am the lucky one...

112586 said...

I always thought it was my parenting. That she was the baby and we were too easy on her. But those described my daughter and myself. The noise one was me as a kids. Even this day I have my moments where it freaks me out. The thought of Going to midnight bowling was always a fear or loud church music was horrible to me. Also certain smells would make me sick.

My daughter on the other hand has clothes problems, shoes, and food. She will freak out if it's most foods, she has to have boy type loose clothes but yet it can't be too loose. No tags! No lace, no heavy thick prints. Also her shoes have to tight. If she wore loose crocs she wouldn't be able to function and kick them off! The talk of food even results in a tantrum! She strictly a peanut butter, McDonald's chicken nuggets and popcorn kind of person with a few junk foods. It's the most frustrating thing. Even coats are problems and new activities. She needs to on a schedule or she can fall apart sometimes.

Unknown said...

My 12 yr old son cannot tolerate loud or high pitched sounds. Has a meltdown anytime there's chaos or tons of noise. Fights me on wearing jeans. He hates people. Obsesses over electronics. Refused to learn to ride a bike, or tie his shoes until last yr. He won't eat anything crumbly or extremely dry and prefers fruit at all times. He's OCD and bugs out when anything is dirty, or he's touched by someone other then myself or his older sister. His anxiety is absolutely horrible. But... He only just turned 12 recently and is a yr ahead in school and loves loves loves to learn. Unfortunately, school is a stressor bc staff and peers seem to exacerbate his issues. The kids use his OCD, germaphobia, anxiety, and sensitivities to bully and upset him and the staff dont do anything to stop it. Then my son reacts to another child's behavior and he gets escorted from the room for having a meltdown. I'm a little confused as to why any adult would allow a child that is disrupting an entire class and bullying a child to stay and make the one who strives to work hard, leave. I'll just never understand...

Unknown said...

Our son age 5, also will not wear jeans? He wants shorts all the time, accepts joggers and school pants, but then rolls them up as shorts!🙈 only eats a limited amount of food and has regular daily meltdowns about trying a new food or going somewhere he doesn't want to!
"Oh whyyyyyyyy do we have to" in the same high pitched tone everytime like the world is ending! 🙈

OlderMomOf2BrightSons said...

My eldest son has almost all these same features. I could have written what you wrote. He was tested and he is "profoundly gifted" and has lots of talents and a great memory, but we have been struggling for years with bullying and teasing, homework and team work, and teachers with a one size fits all approach. Not an easy time making friends, either. From 12 to 15 it seems sensory issues have become more intense, especially smell. Always sniffing everything and commenting on it. Will not touch door knobs or anything metal....

Liza M. said...

My grandson is 9 and has been smellling his food and drink before consuming it since he was a toddler. He only eats certain foods and is very sensitive to loud and/or unexpected noises. He is also very much into Legos and has created many interesting machines with his sets, modifying them with working pullies and string. Also a Minecraft and Roblox addict.

Anonymous said...

These experiences sound so similar to myself when I was a boy. I had an older cousin who always used to hold me on her lap. And somehow there was an unspoken custom between us, that she always had to hold me with her hands pulled way back deep into my stomach. She would hold me quite tightly, with my stomach held in an inch or two deep.

I was perfectly content as long as she was holding my stomach in tight like this. I guess our family looked on it as just one of those quirky things. It continued until my cousin went away to college.

I also asked my babysitter to hold me this way, with her hands sunk back into my stomach "just as tight as you possibly can." It was a simple way to keep me entertained, so any time she came over to babysit she would hold me on her lap with my stomach pulled in extremely tight. She was a big farmgirl, and she used to hold my stomach in just about as absolutely tight as was physically possible. I don't think it could have gotten any tighter. And then I was quiet and perfectly satisfied, and we would watch TV together as she held me this way all through her favorite TV shows.

I also sometimes wore my belt pulled in really tight, I would pull it in to the last notch and I remember I wanted it even tighter. I never understood what all this was about. I don't think anyone did back in those days. It was just one of those things!

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the ASD child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually.

Click here to read the full article…

How to Prevent Meltdowns in Children on the Spectrum

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's or HFA child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and your child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

Click here for the full article...

Parenting Defiant Teens on the Spectrum

Although Aspergers [high-functioning autism] is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager on the spectrum are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

Click here to read the full article…

Older Teens and Young Adult Children with ASD Still Living At Home

Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with ASD face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

Click here to read the full article…

Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

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Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and HFA

Become an expert in helping your child cope with his or her “out-of-control” emotions, inability to make and keep friends, stress, anger, thinking errors, and resistance to change.

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