The One Thing You Should Never Say to Someone With Sensory Issues

Our world is one based in sensation and perception, and most of us can move through it unscathed. We have our sensory preferences and dislikes, sure. Some of us live for the thump of the speakers at live concerts. Others wrap themselves in a cashmere scarf and curl up under a fluffy comforter. Many avoid crowds.

The difference, though, is that for those of us with sensory issues, our “penchant” for cashmere or “desire” for a loud baseline or “dislike” of crowds isn’t merely a preference that can be turned on and off at will. We are wired so differently that our prime directive becomes something like rub your fingers across all soft things all the time in all places regardless of societal norms or social graces OR press your body against the speaker to feel every single pulse and ignore the bouncer who wants to toss you out of the concert venue OR stay the hell away from the undulating crowd and cover your ears and shut your eyes and wish upon all available stars in the sky to be anywhere but here. Hence “disorder.” Hence “differences.” Hence “disability.” Hence “condition.”

In my sensory life, I live with (and respond to) many unusual needs. I fidget with tiny, handheld and fur-covered animal figurines all day because I find the input absolutely necessary to keep me calm and focused. I sometimes sit for hours in darkness because the very idea of a light makes me want to unzip my skin and hang it up on a coat rack. I lie on my back like a tipped-over turtle and cry my face off if I am surprised or feel overwhelmed. I lose the ability to process sound and sight and feel detached from my body if I take in too much sensory input, and I need someone to walk me back home until I can regain my processing abilities.

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