Voices of Autism: ‘Extreme Sensory Issues’

Every day throughout April–Autism Awareness Month–we will be featuring a different reader-submitted story about living with autism. Today’s story was written by Lou Tecpanecatl, father of Diego, 5, and author of the blog Our Life With Diego:

DLTImagine that you and your family are planning a trip, either for a few days or for a week. You may even be flying to your destination. What do you do to prepare the kids for their upcoming adventure? How about when your son or daughter is sick and has to visit the doctor? How do they feel about going to the doctor and then how well do they handle taking antibiotics? Suppose your child seems upset about something that happened in school that day. How would you go about discussing expectations or comforting them in any of these situations?

Now, imagine that your child is 4 or 5 years old and does not possess many basic concepts of speech. His or her language is mostly one- or two-word requests or responses without any conversational skills. In addition to the speech delay, there are extreme sensory issues that cause intense fear of physical exams at any doctor’s office. The child refuses to willfully take any medication and has to be held and have it administered by two adults, fighting the whole time. The fear of high pitched sounds is so pronounced that your child will not even enter a public restroom because there may be a hand dryer in there that will go off at any second. How will you be able to tell them that this visit to the doctor is just a simple check-up? These tests are not painful. No one is going to turn on that machine or vacuum cleaner. Those people are not going to touch you or ask you any questions. How do you feel about being able to comfort him now? A little apprehensive, I would imagine, maybe even a little confused. 

Our son is 5 years old and he has autism. Diego is a very bright and charming little boy who continues to impress us with all that he has overcome. The speech delay, sensory issues, and fear of the doctor are just some of the challenges our family faces on a daily basis. You may be thinking that just having the doctor look in your ears, nose, and throat is not painful or that having blood drawn is just one little pinch and then there is no more discomfort involved. That may be true for many people, but not for our son. The sensations involved are just unbearable for him. Even the loud, piercing noises I described above cause him pain, and I have witnessed the anguish on his face when confronted with these situations.

As the parent of a special needs child, I encourage everyone to learn about autism and how it affects the individual and their family. Due to the fact that not everyone develops speech, motor, or cognitive skills exactly the same way, we as a society need to move past the rigid thought processes that assumes a uniform development of these abilities.

To read previous stories in this series, click here. For instructions on how to submit your story, click here.

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  1. by Lynn

    On April 17, 2011 at 8:44 am

    Those rest room hand dryers are awful. And blenders, vacuum cleaners, leaf blowers, etc. It must be like nails against a chalk board times 100 for them. Great essay Lou!

  2. by Alysia

    On April 17, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    Great essay Lou and I’m so glad you shared your story here. A great reminder for everyone to learn more about SPD and autism and how hard even the smallest things can be for our kids.

  3. by Paul

    On April 17, 2011 at 10:20 pm

    Nice article, Lou. Knowing Diego as we do, your Mom and I are much more tolerant and understanding when we see kids acting up in public. Give Diego a kiss and hug for us.

  4. by Rocky

    On April 18, 2011 at 8:48 am

    Nicely done, Lou. Your advocacy for, and educating others about autism are commendable. Keep up the great work.

  5. by Barbara Manatee

    On April 18, 2011 at 10:54 pm

    Oh! the super duper dyson-style hand dryers are the worst!

    I am a teacher for kids with autism and have dealt with a variety of things with my students. My daughter is not on the spectrum but has many sensory issues of her own. I know how hard it is to reason with and prepare her and she can understand and rationalize easier than my students.

    Great post for opening people’s eyes…

    April is Autism Awareness Month. I am dedicating my blog all month long to Autism.

  6. by Joyce

    On April 19, 2011 at 8:43 pm

    Lou- as always I enjoyed reading your words of wisdom regarding Autism. Diego is truly an inspiration to all of us. xoxo

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