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Instructor Tip Five: Autism Spectrum Disorders


Students with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often have different sensory issues. They may have an extreme over-sensitivity or an extreme under-sensitivity to hearing, sight, touch (tactile), smell, and/or taste.

For example, some students with ASD who have tactile over-sensitivity may only wear certain, specific clothes, or clothes of a specific material. They can be so over-sensitive that some tactile experiences, such as their skin rubbing against certain materials, can often be described as painful, where the same materials may feel comfortable to you and me.

Another common over-sensitivity is to sound; we see many students who report that the sounds that fluorescent lighting makes can be extremely distracting, or also painful, depending upon the individual and his or her sensory sensitivity.

Students with ASD who do exhibit sensory over- or under-sensitivities may benefit from instructors who allow the students some flexibility.

For example, if a student reports over-sensitivity to sounds, it may be helpful to allow that student to wear ear plugs or to sit in a seat in the classroom away from the sound when possible.

A student with an ASD and an over-sensitivity to smells, might react to another student’s perfume, cologne, or foods in a backpack and might need to change seats to move away from the scent(s).

Flexible, accommodating, instructors should allow the students some leeway.

For more information, or more information about the Postsecondary Autism Support Services Program, please contact us at or 865-974-6177.