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16 Simple Tips for Sight, Sound & Scent Sensitivity

Toni helps autistic teens and adults reach their employment and relationship goals. She is the author of the book Autism Translated.

This article is the third installment in the "Sensory Integration and Autism" series. Take the quick sensory screening to see if you or someone you care about is sensitive to sight, sound, or touch, and read specific tips you can follow to address each sensory challenge.

If you are curious about what "sensory integration disorder" is, then click here for Part 1 of this series. If you have ever wondered what it must be like for someone on the autism spectrum to experience hyper/hypo-sensitivity, click here to read their stories in Part 2. For general tips and suggestions to support someone struggling with sensory integration, click here for life changing steps you can take to make a difference in someone's life.

Old fashioned incandescent lights are often preferred to florescent bulbs.

Old fashioned incandescent lights are often preferred to florescent bulbs.

  • Click on each of the sensory questionnaires (sight, sound and smell) below and see how sensory integration disorder affects you or someone you care about. Each quiz may take a few minutes to complete.
  • Be sure to answer the questions about the person you think might have sensory integration disorder.
  • Scores can range from 0% to 100%. The closer to 100%, the greater the sensory challenges in each particular area and the greater the likelihood that this person will benefit from help with hyper and/or hyposensitivity.

Visual (Sight) Sensitivity Questionnaire

For each question, choose the best answer for you.

  1. Faces (especially eyes) are uncomfortable, distracting, irritating or painful to look at?
    • Yes
    • No
  2. Some lights are uncomfortable, distracting, irritating or painful to see?
    • Yes
    • No
  3. Bright colors and or patterns are uncomfortable, distracting, irritating or painful to look at?
    • Yes
    • No
  4. Pictures and/or decorations on walls are uncomfortable, distracting, irritating or painful to see?
    • Yes
    • No
  5. Flashing on computer or television screen is uncomfortable, distracting, irritating or painful?
    • Yes
    • No
  6. Lights (ex. Christmas, city, florescent, firework, car) are uncomfortable, distracting, irritating or painful to see?
    • Yes
    • No
  7. Pages in books or magazines are uncomfortable, distracting, irritating or painful to look at?
    • Yes
    • No
  8. Small details (ex. spec of dust, scratch or chip) are uncomfortable, distracting, irritating or painful to see?
    • Yes
    • No
  9. Things that are crooked or out of order are uncomfortable, distracting, irritating or painful to look at?
    • Yes
    • No
  10. Clutter (too much stuff in one place) is uncomfortable, distracting, irritating or painful too look at?
    • Yes
    • No
  11. Quickly moving objects or people are uncomfortable, distracting, irritating or painful to look at?
    • Yes
    • No
  12. Sees things that other people don't (ex. flickering or particles of light)?
    • Yes
    • No

Scoring

Use the scoring guide below to add up your total points based on your answers.

  1. Faces (especially eyes) are uncomfortable, distracting, irritating or painful to look at?
    • Yes: +1 point
    • No: +0 points
  2. Some lights are uncomfortable, distracting, irritating or painful to see?
    • Yes: +1 point
    • No: +0 points
  3. Bright colors and or patterns are uncomfortable, distracting, irritating or painful to look at?
    • Yes: +1 point
    • No: +0 points
  4. Pictures and/or decorations on walls are uncomfortable, distracting, irritating or painful to see?
    • Yes: +1 point
    • No: +0 points
  5. Flashing on computer or television screen is uncomfortable, distracting, irritating or painful?
    • Yes: +1 point
    • No: +0 points
  6. Lights (ex. Christmas, city, florescent, firework, car) are uncomfortable, distracting, irritating or painful to see?
    • Yes: +1 point
    • No: +0 points
  7. Pages in books or magazines are uncomfortable, distracting, irritating or painful to look at?
    • Yes: +0 points
    • No: +0 points
  8. Small details (ex. spec of dust, scratch or chip) are uncomfortable, distracting, irritating or painful to see?
    • Yes: +1 point
    • No: +0 points
  9. Things that are crooked or out of order are uncomfortable, distracting, irritating or painful to look at?
    • Yes: +1 point
    • No: +0 points
  10. Clutter (too much stuff in one place) is uncomfortable, distracting, irritating or painful too look at?
    • Yes: +1 point
    • No: +0 points
  11. Quickly moving objects or people are uncomfortable, distracting, irritating or painful to look at?
    • Yes: +1 point
    • No: +0 points
  12. Sees things that other people don't (ex. flickering or particles of light)?
    • Yes: +1 point
    • No: +0 points

Interpreting Your Score

A score between 0 and 3 means: ?

A score between 4 and 6 means: ?

A score between 7 and 8 means: ?

A score of 9 means: ?

A score between 10 and 11 means: ?

Sight Tips and Supports

  1. Eliminating fluorescent or other adverse lighting whenever possible. Some of us are so sensitive, we may see particles in certain types of lighting or some lights may give us a headache. Use incandescent bulbs or natural light when possible.
  2. Eliminate clutter on walls, ceilings, and décor. Just as “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure” one person’s visual feast can be another person’s visual nightmare. In other words, ask for feedback on what decoration and ornamentation are comfortable instead of assuming what is acceptable based on your own perception.
  3. Allow hats or sunglasses when lighting cannot be adjusted, even in doors.
  4. Some shades of paper may make it difficult for a person to read text printed on them. Experiment with different shades of inexpensive sunglasses and/or colors of paper to address this problem.
  5. Do not force eye contact if it diminishes communication or is too uncomfortable. Instead, allow the person with sensory issues to find an alternative such as looking between your eyes, at your mouth or neck.
  6. Do not force or expect a person who is overwhelmed by visual stimuli to go into crowded settings or environments that are visually overwhelming. As an alternative, meet in a visually quiet setting or choose an off peak time so that crowds of people do not add to the visual overload.
  7. When someone is particular about how their things are placed or organized, do not touch or move them without permission first.
  8. Wear simple, neutral colored clothing (instead of stripes, floral prints, and polka-dots) if you are an autism professional to decrease the likelihood that your clothing will be a distraction.

Sound Sensitivity Questionnaire

For each question, choose the best answer for you.

  1. The sound of fans, air conditioners, heaters &/or refrigerators is uncomfortable, distracting, irritating, or painful?
    • Yes
    • No
  2. The sound fabric, paper, pencils or chalk is uncomfortable, distracting, irritating or painful?
    • Yes
    • No
  3. The sound of vacuums, disposals, coffee grinders &/or blenders is uncomfortable, distracting, irritating or painful?
    • Yes
    • No
  4. The sound of microwaves, DVD players computers &/or dryers is uncomfortable, distracting, irritating or painful?
    • Yes
    • No
  5. The sound of doorbells, fire alarms, telephones, buzzers is uncomfortable, distracting, irritating or painful?
    • Yes
    • No
  6. The sound of silverware, dishes &/or coins clinking is uncomfortable, distracting, irritating or painful?
    • Yes
    • No
  7. Chip bags, plastic seals &/or lids popping are uncomfortable distracting, irritating or painful?
    • Yes
    • No
  8. Sounds in cafeterias, gymnasiums, theaters, malls &/or churches are uncomfortable, distracting, irritating or painful?
    • Yes
    • No
  9. Dogs barking, crickets, birds chirping &/or cats purring are uncomfortable, distracting, irritating or painful?
    • Yes
    • No
  10. The sound of people breathing,coughing, sneezing &/or drinking is uncomfortable, distracting, irritating or painful?
    • Yes
    • No
  11. Hears things others can't (such as radio waves or voices in other rooms)?
    • Yes
    • No
  12. Not affected by sounds that other people notice (ex. fireworks, slamming doors) even though hearing has been tested?
    • Yes
    • No

Scoring

Use the scoring guide below to add up your total points based on your answers.

  1. The sound of fans, air conditioners, heaters &/or refrigerators is uncomfortable, distracting, irritating, or painful?
    • Yes: +1 point
    • No: +0 points
  2. The sound fabric, paper, pencils or chalk is uncomfortable, distracting, irritating or painful?
    • Yes: +1 point
    • No: +0 points
  3. The sound of vacuums, disposals, coffee grinders &/or blenders is uncomfortable, distracting, irritating or painful?
    • Yes: +1 point
    • No: +0 points
  4. The sound of microwaves, DVD players computers &/or dryers is uncomfortable, distracting, irritating or painful?
    • Yes: +1 point
    • No: +0 points
  5. The sound of doorbells, fire alarms, telephones, buzzers is uncomfortable, distracting, irritating or painful?
    • Yes: +1 point
    • No: +0 points
  6. The sound of silverware, dishes &/or coins clinking is uncomfortable, distracting, irritating or painful?
    • Yes: +1 point
    • No: +0 points
  7. Chip bags, plastic seals &/or lids popping are uncomfortable distracting, irritating or painful?
    • Yes: +1 point
    • No: +0 points
  8. Sounds in cafeterias, gymnasiums, theaters, malls &/or churches are uncomfortable, distracting, irritating or painful?
    • Yes: +1 point
    • No: +0 points
  9. Dogs barking, crickets, birds chirping &/or cats purring are uncomfortable, distracting, irritating or painful?
    • Yes: +1 point
    • No: +0 points
  10. The sound of people breathing,coughing, sneezing &/or drinking is uncomfortable, distracting, irritating or painful?
    • Yes: +1 point
    • No: +0 points
  11. Hears things others can't (such as radio waves or voices in other rooms)?
    • Yes: +1 point
    • No: +0 points
  12. Not affected by sounds that other people notice (ex. fireworks, slamming doors) even though hearing has been tested?
    • Yes: +1 point
    • No: +0 points

Interpreting Your Score

A score between 0 and 3 means: ?

A score between 4 and 7 means: ?

A score between 8 and 9 means: ?

A score of 10 means: ?

A score between 11 and 12 means: ?

Sound Tips and Tools

  1. White noise machines are available online and help drown out other irritating or distracting noises by producing soothing sounds such as ocean waves, rain, washing machines, vacuum cleaners, and dishwashers. Many individuals report that they find a particular sound to be beneficial while other white noise sounds may have no effect or even be irritating.
  2. Allow the use of headphones and music or earplugs to cover up irritating or distracting noises. This should be considered as an accommodation rather than a form of entertainment in the classroom. For example, wearing headphones in a cafeteria, gymnasium or hallway may make these experiences more tolerable. These accommodations can be written into students' Individual Educational Plans (IEP's) or other academic plans when exceptions to school rules need to be made.
  3. Keep the volume of stereos and televisions as low as possible or wear headphones in the presence of anyone who is hypersensitive to sound.
  4. Choose to participate in activities where people gather such as shopping or dining out during “off hours” instead of peak times to avoid dealing with too many people at once. For example, eat out at a restaurant between 11and 12 or after 1 pm to avoid crowds.
Create an autism friendly environment by avoiding perfume and choosing scent free detergent, shampoo, lotion, hair gels and other products.

Create an autism friendly environment by avoiding perfume and choosing scent free detergent, shampoo, lotion, hair gels and other products.

Scent Sensitivity Questionnaire

For each question, choose the best answer for you.

  1. The smell of beauty products (ex. shampoo, makeup, lotion) is uncomfortable, distracting, irritating or painful?
    • Yes
    • No
  2. The smell of smoke &/or fumes (ex. fuel, turpentine, nail polish) is uncomfortable, distracting, irritating or painful?
    • Yes
    • No
  3. The smell of some foods &/or beverages is uncomfortable, distracting, irritating or painful?
    • Yes
    • No
  4. The smell of medicine is uncomfortable, distracting, irritating or painful?
    • Yes
    • No
  5. The smell of pets &/or sweat is uncomfortable, distracting, irritating or painful?
    • Yes
    • No
  6. Smells scents that other people do not notice?
    • Yes
    • No

Scoring

Use the scoring guide below to add up your total points based on your answers.

  1. The smell of beauty products (ex. shampoo, makeup, lotion) is uncomfortable, distracting, irritating or painful?
    • Yes: +1 point
    • No: +0 points
  2. The smell of smoke &/or fumes (ex. fuel, turpentine, nail polish) is uncomfortable, distracting, irritating or painful?
    • Yes: +1 point
    • No: +0 points
  3. The smell of some foods &/or beverages is uncomfortable, distracting, irritating or painful?
    • Yes: +1 point
    • No: +0 points
  4. The smell of medicine is uncomfortable, distracting, irritating or painful?
    • Yes: +1 point
    • No: +0 points
  5. The smell of pets &/or sweat is uncomfortable, distracting, irritating or painful?
    • Yes: +1 point
    • No: +0 points
  6. Smells scents that other people do not notice?
    • Yes: +1 point
    • No: +0 points

Interpreting Your Score

A score between 0 and 1 means: ?

A score between 2 and 3 means: ?

A score of 4 means: ?

A score of 5 means: ?

A score of 6 means: ?

Scent Tips and Tools

  1. Create and encourage scent-free environments whenever possible. If shampoos, perfumes, lotions, detergents or deodorants cause nausea or headaches, use unscented products when in the presence of those who are hypersensitive to smell.
  2. Professionals working with individuals on the spectrum should not wear perfume or scented lotions or other body products to work and should not burn candles or have potpourri in their offices if this space is open to the public.
  3. Avoid taking routes that have known scent “pollution” such as perfume counters and food courts at the mall and be willing to scope out public areas in advance on behalf of the sensitive person to avoid sitting or standing next to someone who is heavily scented.
  4. Air filters to deodorize can be beneficial. These range from the small affordable plug in units that fit into a room to full ventilation system filters.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.