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Michel Ardan
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14 May 2024, 3:30 pm

I’m currently reading Unmasked Autism by Dr Devon Price. In chapter 4, it is written:

Dr Devon Price wrote:
The longer [Neurotypicals] are in the presence of a sound, smell, texture, or visual cue, the more their brain learns to ignore it, and allow it to fade into the background. […] The exact opposite is true for Autistic people: the longer we are around a stimulus, the more it bothers us.


Is this true for all sensory input? I am able to ignore smell over time but not sounds. For example, I have family living by large shallow ponds that smell rotten egg but I stop smelling it very rapidly, no more than a few hours after arriving in the smelly zone. On the other hand, I’m always heard the water running in the pipes of the heating system of my apartment building after 7 years in it (it’s quieter than normal voices in the flat, but way louder than it should be), and drilling sounds in the walls never get better as the day passes. I also struggle with itchy clothes, even when I’ve been wearing them for a long time (way more than during one day, like 3 year-old shirts).



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14 May 2024, 4:53 pm

I'm the same way. Some stimuli are easy to ignore, others are impossible.


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14 May 2024, 5:20 pm

It's a mix of true and not-necessarily-true.

Generally speaking, human beings can and do adapt to their surroundings to a remarkable degree, and can learn to tune-out many thing. A simple example is the tip of your own nose. Humans are generally capable of seeing their own nose on their own face - but most people hardly notice, cos they're so used to it, they tune it out.

There is a limit to this ability, and it varies with the individual. Sensory input can take many forms that prohibit or inhibit the ability to tune it out. Some autistics are hypersensitive, which likely would make it more difficult to tune out a given stimulus. Some are hyposensitive, which may make them tune-out even more than they mean to. Some are both, and are all over the place as to what they're oversensitive to, and what they're under-sensitive to.

Hypersensitivity can make tuning things out more difficult, but it doesn't make it impossible. One major factor is the mindset of the individual. If they always tell themselves that bright light is literal torture, and persist in behaving like it is, then they will simply "get used" to the idea of seeing bright light as torture. OTOH, if they approach it from the perspective of "bright light is uncomfortable, duh, so I'm not even gonna think about it, and just carry on as best I can", they're in a better position to "tune it out", cos they're not psyching themselves up about how awful it is.

This process also requires consistent exposure, in order to get used to the stimulus or stimuli - a tendency towards avoidance of discomfort rather than tolerance of discomfort can hinder or prevent the process.

I personally am atypically sensitive in all of my senses, with a few random hyposensitivities - I've learned how to tune them out to a fairly effective degree, so while I don't enjoy them, they don't typically overload me, either. I've also learned to be more aware of things I tended to be unaware of.



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14 May 2024, 9:35 pm

In my case, it's mix and match relative to my current state.

Turns out; the most consistent thing for me was the inability to ignore internal sensations; this includes emotions, feelings, thoughts and ideas -- not easy to let go or ignore. I've been fighting it for most of my life.

The closest breaks I got from my interoception was overwhelming myself with workouts.
Or finding ways to even my hormones. Or overcoming certain loops and ending them.

Anything else just has less filter.
Intensity and tolerance can vary for me related to my reproductive cycle's hormones.

And the only way I can ignore countless input is through intense focus. But that requires me to pass through a particular thresholds.


Otherwise; my senses doesn't change much in filtering and subjective intensities that I experience.
I can only adapt by increasing my threshold and tolerance.


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15 May 2024, 12:09 pm

Like most of the other posters on this thread, I too have mixed abilities to adapt.

It really depends on my mood, overstimulation status, and what the sensory input is.

For me, texture, tightness, and feel of clothing is a huuuge sensory issue for me. If I am engaged in something that has my focus, I am able to somewhat adapt to the clothing item (usually jeans, belts, or bras). The sensory issues come back when I am not engaged in a task, or if something else bothers my senses or mood. When I have all day sensory problems with my clothing I usually come home and throw off my clothes like a hurricane.

I also struggle to adapt to the feeling of sweat. It does NOT get better for me over time. I find that it makes my clothing issues even worse, and the more overstimulated I am, the sweatier I get. Awful cycle of starting to sweat, getting anxious because of sweat, continue to sweat more.

This has been a constant battle my whole life... ʕ´• ᴥ•̥`ʔ


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15 May 2024, 5:58 pm

it may be true for some and not others. autism is uneven development of neurology and it will be different in every individual. Some may be affected in certain ways and not in others, all across our sensory processing abilities and experiences. The attempts to put all autistic individuals into one basket "autistic people do this, not that" will fail because some of us do and some of us don't, so far there is not a single definable trait of autism that is common to us all except that we will have multiple sensory processing difficulties due to uneven development of our neurology.


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Michel Ardan
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16 May 2024, 4:57 pm

Thank you for your answer. Indeed, every autistic person is different but the book sentence is unusually absolute in this section. I’m still dealing with imposter syndrome, every unrelatable detail about autistic traits makes me doubting about the value of my diagnosis.



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17 May 2024, 6:15 pm

Smell: Arriving at the optician's, there was a guy at the door warning customers that they had a problem with the drains, saying that it wasn't dangerous and that the staff had ceased to be able to smell it after a few minutes of exposure. Of course he wasn't forcing anybody to enter the place. I was very skeptical about his claim, but I didn't want to waste time re-booking and doing more travelling, so I bravely or recklessly went in and tested his theory, expecting to have to cut and run. To my surprise, he was right. Don't know how general that effect is. Usually if something stinks I just get away from it ASAP. Somehow I don't want to do any further testing. Let somebody else do that research.

Touch: I can screen out headaches, itching, pressures from ill-fitting clothes and unsuitable seating, hunger, stomach ache, etc. if they're fairly mild, by focussing on special interests or my work, but for each sensory issue there's a threshold above which it'll break through. And if I've nothing to focus on then those sensory issues come back with a vengeance. Probably helps explain my low boredom threshold.

Noise: That's the one with the lowest threshold. I can't think straight with certain types of noise going on, and I do a lot of thinking and other mental focussing. I can't easily resolve sounds of interest out of a mixture but over time I do a bit better, e.g. replaying a sound recording. Continuous sounds don't bother me much, but intermittent ones are a much bigger problem, and they get to feel worse and worse. It would damage the hearing to try to get used to the sound of a smoke alarm. That noise winds me up so much that I don't have one in my UK house. They go off without any need, too often.

Light: I don't think I adapt to strong flashing sunlight such as happens in a long car journey - I think that's due to the irises having to stop down rapidly which makes the muscles hurt. With continuous bright light I suppose my irises stop down once and then there's no further problem. I can't seem to get used to moving or flashing objects in my peripheral field of vision if I'm trying to watch a screen. They break my focus.

Taste: Coriander used to taste nasty but after a few exposures I grew to love it. I guess we all grow to tolerate and like the tastes we're used to.