Friday, 29 October 2010

Coping with foreground noise

blurred blue squiggle, representing sensory overload
It occurs to me that in my last post I waxed lyrical about sensory sensitivity, but didn't actually explain how I handle it. This is handy information, because I may have lucked onto something other Aspies could use.

Please share any of your own in the comments - there'll be all sorts of things I haven't covered because it doesn't affect me personally, or maybe just hasn't occurred to me.

So, onwards...

Tactile
  • I cut most of the tags off my clothes to reduce irritation, and also the hanging ribbons one finds on some womens' clothing.
  • I'm choosy about fabrics. Stretchy cotton (ie good quality t-shirt fabric) is best for me, non-stretch 100% synthetic fibres are the worst. This goes not only for clothes but home linens, too - my life is much improved since I started making my own pillow cases out of old t-shirts.
  • I can't use certain kinds of hair conditioner, because it has an unpleasant slimy texture which 'sticks' to my skin for hours afterwards. Ironically expensive shampoos are worse (Clairol herbal essences in particular) while cheap ones are generally OK. I've no idea what the one I usually use is called, but it's usually right on the bottom shelf and less than $3 a bottle.\
  • Light touch itches like hell. I prefer a firm hug or handshake to a limp one, and use a heavy blanket all year round - even if it means I need to have a dfan running as well. I don't sleep well under a light cover. I'd really like to invest in a proper weighted blanket if I ever get around to it.
  • My balance is very poor, so I ALWAYS keep a hand on the rails of stairs and escalators, in case I go over.
  • Similarly I don't have the spatial awareness to jump off or over things. So if I have to get out of the back of a ute, for instance, I'll sit on the edge and then push myself off to the ground rather than trying to jump off from a standing position. Yeah, it looks wussy, but otherwise I misjudge the distance and sprain ankles.
Aural
  • Sound is a particular problem for me - ironic, since I work with it for a living. I never leave a TV or radio playing unattended, the way some people do 'for company'. I am much more settled and comfortable without the extra noise.
  • I can NOT listen to two people at once. Say I'm on the phone and someone comes and starts talking to me in person as well: I literally lose the ability to understand either of them. It's as though they've both just suddenly started speaking a different language. If I can't get one of them to shut up, I just have to walk away.
  • I generally turn the sound effects and music off when I'm playing games.
  • In a noisy environment headphones with music apparently help some people, but I find not - in places like buses or trains it's better to be aware of one's surroundings than try to drown them out with music.
  • Squeaks, rattles, drips and clanks are horrid. I fix them. If I can't fix the noise, I tape up/grease/jam a piece of plasticine around the offending object until it can be properly fixed.
  • My parents have finally realised they'll actually get a conversation out of me over the dinner table if they turn the TV off first. Otherwise, I'm too busy fighting the intrusive noise to make small talk.
Visual
  • I'm personally not overly bothered by visual stimulus unless I'm already overstimulated in other ways, but fluro lights are sometimes a problem. There's a certain harshness to that light which creates something akin to a crawling effect on my skin, like a light but constant pressure.
  • Chessboard type patterns and grids - like white tiles with black grout - sometimes appear to move and bulge. This isn't so much a problem as a random weird neurological phenomenon, but it does mean I sometimes can't really tell how far away the floor is. Plain floors are easier to judge. Apparently there's a similar problem which affects older people with dementia - a large black spot on a white rug, for example, actually looks like a raised section which must be stepped over leading to increased risk of falls.
Taste, and textures and scents specific to food
  • I cannot eat prepackaged yoghurt with chunks of fruit in it. The chunks are slimy and smell and taste rotten, even if they're not. Plain yoghurt is a much better option, or run the fruit yoghurt through the blender to get rid of those Godawful lumps of slime.
  • Most vegetables and fruit - and some pickles and jams- taste incredible sour to me. It's something to do with an increased sensitivity to certain compounds in plant based foods. So once I find something I can handle - bananas, broccoli, carrots, corn - I stick to it.
  • Some store-bought recipe bases have that same slimy texture that causes trouble with hair conditioner. I find Aldi-branded recipe-base-in-a-jar particularly bad, and Patak's curry sauces about the best.
  • I don't eat in the kitchen. The cooking smells put me right off my food, strangely. I'm OK if I eat in another room.