Autism and Sensory Sensitivity

More than 90% of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) – a neurodevelopmental disorder have sensory issues. Common sensory issues include hypersensitivity to loud noise, touch, and light. Around half of parents notice autism symptoms by the time their child is 12 months old, with the remaining noticing symptoms after 2 years. Autism is characterised by communication difficulties, socialisation issues, repetitive and ritualistic behaviours. Let’s closely understand all types of sensory sensitivities, and foods & tips that can help to manage this.

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Types of sensory issues:

Many autistic children have difficulties processing sensory information. Children who are either hyporesponsive or hyperresponsive may exhibit meltdowns, withdrawal, or other challenging behaviours. Desensitization tools can help these children deal with sensory inputs.

To feel satisfied, under-sensitive (Hyposensitivity) children seek out more sensations. This could mean they turn up the volume on the TV, jump on the bed, or spin the wheels of their toy car over and over. Sensory toys provide them with the sensations they seek in a fun and safe environment.

Over-sensitive (Hypersensitivity) children attempt to avoid overpowering sensations. This could mean they cover their ears when the vacuum cleaner is on, want clothing tags removed, or cry when placed on a swing. In these cases, sensory toys serve as an enjoyable introduction to unpleasant sensations for children, with the goal of making the sense more tolerable in the future.

Signs of sensory issues In autistic children:

The outward signs of sensory sensitivities vary depending on whether children are oversensitive or undersensitive. Here are some examples of different sensory issues/sensitivities:

  • Sight: Bright colors may appeal to children who are colorblind. Oversensitive children may squint or appear uneasy in direct sunlight or glare.
  • Touch: Children who are overly sensitive may seek out different textures or rub their arms and legs against things. Oversensitive children may object to the sensation of labels on the inside of their clothes and attempt to remove them.
  • Taste: Undersensitive children may enjoy eating foods with strong flavours, such as onions and olives. Oversensitive children may only eat certain textures of food.
  • Smell: Children who are overly sensitive may sniff everything. Oversensitive children may complain about odours such as deodorants or perfumes, or they may smell things that no one else does.
  • Sound: Children who are overly sensitive may turn up the music or speak loudly. Oversensitive children may cover their ears to block out loud noises.
  • Sense of position, balance and movement: Children who are overly sensitive may have an unstable balance. However, children who are oversensitive may have excellent balance.
  • Temperature: Children who are heat sensitive may want to dress warmly in the summer. Oversensitive children may not feel the cold and prefer to wear shorts in the winter.
  • Pain: Children who are overly sensitive to injuries may ignore them or respond to them slowly. Still, oversensitive children may also overreact to minor annoyances.
INGREDIENTS THAT MAY HELP TO IMPROVE sensory sensitivity:

According to experts, anything that is good for the brain is likely to be good for autism and sensory sensitivity. Below is a list of the essential nutrients and ingredients recommended as part of a healthy ASD diet.

ASHWAGANDHA:

It is a small woody plant native to India and North Africa. Ashwagandha has a strong affinity for GABA receptors. As a result, Ashwagandha can be used to treat Autism symptoms such as sensory issues, memory loss, anxiety, and attention deficit.

BRAHMI:

Brahmi is a brain superfood that is believed to sharpen the brain by protecting cells and increasing chemicals involved in learning and memory. It acts on the CNS, where it improves grasping power, eye contact, memory, intellect, and speech, as well as correcting sensory sensitivity, emotional, mood, and personality aberrations in an individual.

SHANKHAPUSHPI:

In order to improve brain functioning, shankhapushpi is an old remedy. The powerful antioxidants and flavonoids present in it improve the memory capacity, focus, concentration, calmness, alertness of an individual. Since it is a brain tonic and stimulator, people taking shankhapushpi have improved autism features like sensory issues, memory, reasoning, problem-solving, and other cognitive abilities.

PROTEIN: 

Protein is an essential component of a healthy diet. It helps to build, maintain, and repair body tissues. It is also necessary for brain health and plays an important role in neurotransmitter production (brain chemical).

(How to get a protein-rich diet?)

OMEGA 3 FATTY ACIDS:

There is a link between omega 3 fatty acids and early childhood brain development, according to research. These healthy fats have incredible brain-boosting properties, additionally play an important role in improving autism features like sensory sensitivity, memory, and attention span. Fish and walnuts are excellent sources of omega 3.

(Why is Omega 3 important for your kids?)

MAGNESIUM:

Magnesium is responsible for nerve transmission and nerve-muscle coordination in our bodies. In other words, it guards against a child’s excessive excitement (which can be traumatic). It also increases the effectiveness of vitamin B, which is important in the production of enzymes required by the brain. It  may improve sensory sensitivity and reduce behavioral issues.

(what are some disorders in which magnesium can help?)

ZINC: 

Zinc is a mineral that our bodies require in trace amounts. Because our bodies do not store zinc, we must consume small amounts of it on a regular basis to maintain our health. It is required for proper brain development and function, immune function, protein synthesis, and wound healing.

(How can zinc help with hair and skin health?)

NUTS:

All nuts, including almonds, walnuts, cashews, peanuts, and hazelnuts, are high in vitamin E and aid in memory enhancement. They are also antioxidants that protect cells from damage. Walnuts are high in omega 3 fatty acids and are beneficial to sensory sensitivity, brain function, memory, and cognitive abilities. This fatty acid is also beneficial to cognitive functions.

 (Best nuts for protein)

SEEDS:

Aside from nuts, seeds such as flax, chia, melon, sesame, and pumpkins contain potent antioxidants such as vitamin E, which protect the brain from free radical damage. Sunflower seeds have an effect on overall mood and mental processing abilities, so they are regarded as a brain-boosting snack. Pumpkin seeds contain more magnesium, copper, and zinc than other seeds, which aid in eye contact, concentration, and memory. One of the simplest brain-boosting foods for children to consume.

COCOA POWDER:

Pure Cocoa powder (unsweetened) contains brain-boosting components as it is packed with a large number of antioxidants molecules, the main is epicatechin which is helpful to improve cognition in studies. Hence, cocoa powder is also an important brain development food for children.

Also, check More benefits of cocoa powder

CHAMOMILE:

Chamomile is thought to be a safe and effective way to relax a child. It’s an old flower. These flowers are white and yellow and resemble small daisies. European and Asian origin. It has been used medicinally for centuries to calm the mind and mildly induce sleep. Moreover, it promotes sleep and relieves insomnia by improving relaxation and relieving stress.

LEMON BALM:

Lemon balm extracts: A Phytomedicine Compound Relieves Hyperactivity, Attention Deficit, and Impulsivity Symptoms in Children According to the National Institutes of Health study, the proportion of children with strong/very strong symptoms of poor ability to focus decreased from 75% to 14%, hyperactivity from 61% to 13%, and impulsiveness from 59% to 22%. Parent-rated social behavior, sleep, and symptom burden all improved significantly.

Also, Read research here.

Some tips that may help Children With Sensory sensitivity

There are numerous tools available to parents to assist their children with autism in managing sensory issues or sensitivity. While therapy and professional care are the most important ways to help your child, the work you do at home every day is also critical. You can help your child’s mental health by doing some simple things. Your child’s challenges with autism and sensory issues are unique. Environmental changes can also be beneficial.

Try these solutions:

  • If your child is sensitive to noise, use noise-cancelling headphones to avoid sound at noisy or crowded places.
  • For children who become overly stimulated, consider weighted blankets and jackets. These tools can help them feel more in control and calm.
  • Consult with a child’s teacher about classroom interventions such as advance notice of fire drills or a special cushion for their chair.
  • Introduce new places to your child during quiet times, gradually increasing the amount of time they spend there in subsequent visits.
  • Provide clothing with no tags. Children with tactile sensitivities are less likely to be itchy.
  • Reduce the brightness of a room’s lights because bright lights can be overwhelming for children who are sensitive to visual input.
  • Set aside time during the day to listen to music or bounce on the trampoline.
  • Educate yourself and others in your child’s life about their unique needs and what works best for them.

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