Sensory disabilities

Sensory disabilities

Everyday we use our senses to understand the world around us, but for someone with a sensory disability this is particularly difficult.

What are sensory disabilities?

A sensory disability affects a person’s senses; their sight, hearing, smell, touch, taste or spacial awareness. People with sensory disability may feel sensory input more or less intensely than other people, which impacts on a person’s ability to interact in different environments and perform daily activities.

There are three main components for people with sensory difficulties:

  • Sensory Modulation Disorder is a problem with turning sensory messages into controlled behaviour that matches the nature and intensity of the sensory information. For example, overreactions to touch, movement, sounds, odours and tastes can cause discomfort, avoidance, distractibility and anxiety.

  • Sensory-Based Motor Disorder is a problem with stabilising, moving or planning a series of movements in response to sensory demands. For example, deficits in balance, gross motor and fine motor coordination and the ability to perform skilled, familiar and/or novel motor actions.

  • Sensory Discrimination Disorder is a problem with sensing similarities and differences between sensations. For example, incorrect processing of visual or auditory input, inattentiveness, disorganisation and poor school performance.

Common sensory disabilities

The most common sensory disabilities include:

  • Vision impairments - Vision impairments are either categorised into low vision or blindness. Low vision can affect people of all ages and impact on many aspects of a person’s life, including recognising faces, reading the newspaper, using a telephone and reading road signs, whereas a complete loss of vision causes difficulty in mobility and everyday tasks.
  • Hearing impairments - Hearing impairments are problems that occur within the hearing pathway. They can cause learning and speech difficulties in young children which can be supported through speech therapy. Hearing impairments can be a total or partial loss of hearing.
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder - A lifelong developmental condition categorised by difficulties in social interaction, communication, sensory processing difficulties and restricted interests and behaviours. People with Autism relate to their environment and other people differently.
  • Sensory Processing Disorder - A neurological condition causing misinterpretation of the world and other people through hearing, vision, taste, smell, touch, pressure and movement.