Sensory-based therapy for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) concentrates on improving or correcting the body’s unusual response to external stimuli.
All of us experience the world through five senses. These are smell, touch, sight, sound, and taste. We use these senses to interpret and react to the surroundings, based on the information collected by the brain. For the entire time that we’re awake, these sensory organs continuously send information to our brain. For neuro-typical persons, the brain filters the constant flow of sensory messages and ignores those that aren’t relevant at that time.
For instance, when you sit at your computer and type something, you’re only concentrating on the words that appear before you on the screen, and your fingers stroking the keyboard. But if you allow yourself to focus on every incoming sensory message, you’ll hear the sound of typing from your colleague’s computer, a car passing by, and the hum of the office air-conditioner. You can see the papers stacked on your desk, the sunlight coming through. You can feel the clothes against your skin, and also feel the taste of your morning coffee. But fortunately, all these senses are filtered out and you can concentrate only on the work in front of you.
For individuals with ASD, the filtering of unimportant input doesn’t happen. The sunlight coming through the window blinds could be mesmerizing while the air-conditioner hum may be highly irritating. The inability to filter out “background” stimuli often produces a “sensory overload” in people having ASD. It disrupts their ability to focus on a particular work and concentrate. These are the basic skills for learning and communicating that are addressed by sensory-based therapy. The difficulty doesn’t involve just one sensory but multiple senses and their interpretation.
There are several components to sensory based therapy. It’s often a combination of two or more therapies.