Sensory disabilities

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Every day we use our senses to understand the world around us, but for someone with a sensory disability, this is more difficult as their senses react differently.

What are sensory disabilities?

A sensory disability affects one, some or all of a person’s senses; sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste. Spacial awareness, the ability to know where your body is in relation to objects or other people, is often included as a sixth sense.

People with a sensory disability may feel sensory input more or less intensely than other people. This impacts their ability to interact with different environments and perform daily activities., especially when those environments are not designed to be accessible or inclusive.

There are three main concerns for people with sensory difficulties, which are:

Sensory modulation disorder

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

When someone has difficulty with stabilising, moving or planning a series of movements in response to sensory demands, this is known as a sensory-based motor disorder. For example, deficits in balance, gross motor and fine motor coordination and the ability to perform skilled, familiar and novel motor actions.

Sensory discrimination disorder

Some people with disability have difficulty sensing similarities and differences between sensations. Sensory discrimination disorder may present itself through the incorrect processing of visual or auditory input, inattentiveness and disorganisation.

Common sensory disabilities

There is a range of sensory disabilities, which may be standalone or a part of another disability. 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 phone and reading road signs. Meanwhile, a complete loss of vision causes difficulty with mobility, navigation 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

Autism is 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

Sensory processing disorder is a neurological condition causing misinterpretation of the world and other people through hearing, vision, taste, smell, touch, pressure and movement.

Have you been diagnosed with a sensory disability? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below.

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