Updated: Mar 30
Does your sensory profile (your unique collection of sensory needs) stay the same your whole life? Like many neurodivergents, I have found that my sensory needs fluctuate over time. While Autistics always have sensory needs, sometimes those needs shift as we grow and change.
You may already know this from experience. Maybe things that did not bother you before suddenly cause sensory distress. Or maybe something that used to be intolerable suddenly isn't anymore. When we take the time to examine changes in our sensory profile, we get better at knowing and meeting our own needs.
Below, I'll break down part of my own sensory profile to three ways it has changed over time. You can use my examples as a model to examine the changes you yourself may have experienced.
(Content Information: This post will discuss food.)
1. Things that used to bother me, but don't anymore
I think this first example is a sensory profile change that's common for neurodivergents and neurotypicals alike: the addition of coffee into my daily routine.
(Please do not give coffee to your cat.)
When I was a teenager, I could still taste the awful bitterness of coffee through all the cream and sugar of a Frappucino.
As an adult, my taste buds are not as sensitive to bitter tastes. I have come to enjoy coffee, though I still typically put in a lot of creamer. (I also credit coffee with getting me through college!)
2. Things that didn't bother me before, but now do
Shirts or blouses with sleeves that come down to my elbows never bothered me before. For some reason, I cannot stand it as an adult. I am not sure where this unique sensory need came from or why. Still, it has been something that I have accommodated for over the past several years, and it may be here to stay.
(Remember when Dwight was forced to wear long sleeves? Kind of like that.)
If I am close with someone, I am able to let them know I am not comfortable with my elbows being touched. But well-meaning strangers may do this occasionally. To feel better, I bend my elbow and rub each part of it with equal pressure to "clean the slate."
3. Things that turn "on" and "off"
Like many kids, I fell in love with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (but only if it was cut into triangles). But I ate so many PB&Js over the years that eventually I could no longer stand peanut butter. After a hiatus, I will occasionally have a PB&J if the mood strikes.
(Two triangles, four if you're feeling fancy.)
Build a sensory schedule!
A sensory schedule helps you break down your sensory needs and find ways to regulate your senses throughout the week. You can build your own sensory schedule (created by Zephyr James of the Autism Society of Minnesota)--it's a great tool to share with your autism life coach!