Episode 7:  Sensory Challenges are the Key


In this episode of the Respect the Stim podcast, Captain Jerry Turning discusses the sensory system and sensory processing challenges commonly experienced by individuals on the autism spectrum. He emphasizes the importance of understanding how these challenges can directly impact behavior and influence every aspect of their lives. Captain Jerry aims to provide actionable insights to help listeners navigate encounters with individuals on the autism spectrum.

He begins by expressing his admiration for the autistic mind and its unique perspectives. However, he acknowledges that along with this beauty comes significant challenges, particularly in the realm of sensory sensitivity and dysregulation. Our sensory system is how we process the world, and individuals on the autism spectrum often struggle to apply filters and context to sensory information. Their brains devote equal attention to extraneous sensory input as they do to the important things, leading to overstimulation and difficulty in regulating sensory experiences.

Jerry explains that individuals can be oversensitive or undersensitive to sensory input, and this can fluctuate along the spectrum. Oversensitivity is when someone feels overstimulated and uncomfortable in certain environments, such as crowded places or high-intensity situations. He shares personal examples of feeling oversensitive, like in a crowded mall or in a bustling city. On the other hand, undersensitivity refers to a constant craving for sensory input, as if one is undernourished in their sensory experiences. His son, for instance, seeks intense sensory input through taste, sound, and movement.

The challenge lies in finding the middle ground and regulating sensory input effectively. Individuals on the spectrum often struggle to maintain this balance and may experience meltdowns when overstimulated. Captain Jerry emphasizes that sensory dysregulation is a major challenge for these individuals and directly impacts their behavior. As first responders or police officers, it's essential to consider sensory issues when dealing with someone on the spectrum. The additional sensory information we bring, such as sirens, radios, and questions, can either exacerbate or alleviate their sensory challenges.

To address these issues, Jerry suggests thinking from a sensory perspective. Making the environment quieter, reducing the number of questions asked, and minimizing the sensory noise from lights and sirens can help individuals on the spectrum feel more calm and cooperative. By recognizing the sensory nature of the situation, first responders can approach encounters with greater understanding and provide better support.

Jerry concludes by highlighting the importance of knowledge and awareness in effectively assisting individuals with sensory processing challenges. Understanding the sensory aspects at play equips responders with the tools to improve interactions and reduce friction in their encounters. He encourages listeners to prioritize sensory considerations and reminds them to stay safe.

Subscribe Now!