Autism and Sensory Trauma

Sensory trauma explained


I don’t often post links to other pages, but I do go back to “learn from autistics” repeatedly, and I do recommend it to others who are seeking information about the experience of autism. Useful for insights about how we as autistics experience our world.

Each one of us is different, our challenges and our experiences are all different, so sometimes I do not identify with some of the people in the interview section of the pages.

This particular series, however, was so well explained and so completely descriptive of some of my own trauma due to sensory issues, that I am including it here, in hope that somebody else may benefit.

Spouses, parents, siblings, co workers, caretakers, friends, and others who are not autistic may find this website useful for understanding the “autistic experience”. Who better to explain what our world is like, than those who have lived experience???


https://www.learnfromautistics.com/autism-interview-171-part-1-emma-reardon-on-sensory-challenges-and-sensory-trauma/


In recalling some of my most traumatic sensory experience “the stairs” loom as one of my most consistent challenges.

Through second grade, the school I attended was all on one level, no stairs. Beginning third grade that changed, as our family had moved to a new city. The grade school there was on 3 levels with a huge granite staircase as the dominant architectural feature.

The stair steps were low and wide and the stair well had railings only on each side and an open inside wall from railing height and above. The echo was incredible, the height and depth of the staircase was terrifying in dimension.

The other children ran up and down the steps, pushing, shoving, some dodging in and out of the main stream. I clung to a railing trembling and carefully placing each foot, and in desperate fear of falling.

This happened going up and down multiple times a day, for recess, lunch, “gym class” etc. Those stairs were the bane of my existence and I always got in trouble for being the last in my seat, last in line, etc. I had developed the seemingly reasonable technique of waiting until the other children had gone ahead before I attempted my terrifying ascents and descents.

In every school thereafter, there was the challenge of “the stairs”. Up levels and down several times a day.

Most class changes had us hustling to try to get to our next classroom before the “bell”. I was almost always late.

In addition to this, in middle school I also contended with aggression of others, one boy in particular finding it funny to run into me in thestairs or the hallway and to knock my huge pile of books out of my arms and send them flying in a storm of paper, pencils, and leaving me bruised.

I made sure nobody was near me on those stairs, not a soul on any staircase before I attempted to navigate them.

No teacher ever scolded him, I learned to wait standing in the hallway against the wall until he went into the classroom. ( he was always one of the last in, because he stalked me, waiting for an opportunity to attack).

I was always in trouble for being late after the bell.

I was constantly asked why I was in the hallway after others had long gone.

It was simply safer to me to get scolded by an adult, than it was to risk my life and risk injury every day on those stairs with the stampeding herds. I truly felt I was in that sort of danger every time I encountered stairs.

Can you imagine living in that sort of constant fear when approaching a seemingly simple every day activity?

There are loads of other memories I have about other sensory experiences, but the trauma of stairs is still with me.

If you are autistic, I bet you can think of some sensory traumas which have been with you all your life, too.

2 thoughts on “Autism and Sensory Trauma

  1. I remember a dread of the tall, steep metal-edged stairs in our elementary school. I’ve even had bad dreams about them as an adult. Thank you for discussing this. I never thought of the stairs in terms of my Autism before, but it makes total sense.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have trouble with stairs also — but only going down. I’ve never been able to run downstairs. I always misjudge my footing and trip. On some stairways, I go down the way little kids do — waiting until both feet are on the same step before going down the next one. Makes me feel really silly. But going up is fine!

    Like

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