Sensory Issues and Autism: The Top 5 Questions You Have, Answered

Welcome to the Turn Autism Around podcast! I’m Dr. Mary Barbera, and in our latest episode, we’re going to delve deep into the fascinating topic of sensory issues in children with autism, or those showing signs. Join me and my special guest, Kelsey General, as we explore the top five questions we often receive about sensory issues, and problem behaviors.  Sensory issues can vary, ranging from being sensory avoidant to sensory seeking. We actually all have sensory issues, but they manifest in different ways. So come join us as we delve into sensory issues, and how they present in children with autism or those showing signs. 


  • Understanding sensory issues in children with autism
  • What are sensory issues?
  •  Differentiating sensory seeking from sensory avoiding behaviors
  • The role of sensory issues in diagnosing autism
  • Do sensory issues mean a child has autism?
  • How to address sensory issues to prevent and treat problem behavior
  • The importance of desensitization techniques for sensory issues

  • Should you use chewies, sensory rooms, or weighted vests?

What are Sensory Issues?

Sensory issues, also known as sensory processing difficulties or sensory sensitivities, refer to atypical reactions or responses to sensory stimuli in the environment. These sensory stimuli can include things like sights, sounds, smells, textures, tastes, and movement. Individuals with sensory issues may experience hypersensitivity, where certain sensory inputs are perceived as overwhelming or distressing. On the other hand, some individuals may experience hyposensitivity, where they have a reduced response to sensory input, seeking more intense sensory experiences. Sensory issues can affect various aspects of daily life, leading to challenges in social interactions, communication, motor skills, and emotional regulation. Understanding and addressing sensory issues is crucial in creating supportive environments and developing effective strategies to help individuals thrive and participate fully in daily activities.  I share a story today about Lucas, and his sensitivity to sound, and how over the years his sensory needs have actually changed! So, answering what are sensory issues is actually quite complex! 

Do Sensory Issues mean autism?

Here’s the thing – sensory differences aren’t exclusive to autism. They can be present in typically developing individuals too. Kelsey shares how she is actually sensitive to hats and sunglasses, whereas I don’t recognize any sensory issues in myself.  Autism is not just one thing, when sensory issues are combined with language delays and other early signs, then yes, it could mean autism. On the other hand, just having sensory issues doesn’t mean an individual has autism. That’s why it’s essential to consider sensory issues, their magnitude and frequency, as one part of diagnosing autism, alongside other signs and indicators.

Sensory Issues or Problem Behaviors?

During our discussion, we’ll also emphasize the important distinction between sensory issues and problem behavior. While sensory issues can contribute to problem behavior, it’s crucial to understand the underlying cause and find ways to prevent and treat it. We’ll share effective strategies, such as reinforcement and a child-friendly approach, to address problem behaviors while considering sensory sensitivities as potential clues for intervention.

Sensory Seeking Behaviors

We often get asked, my child is chewing on their shirt, but it’s a sensory issue so we can’t help it what should I do? Looking at the chewing or sensory seeking behavior as a clue to the bigger picture is important, and there are things we can do! We’ll take a closer look at sensory rooms and weighted vests, exploring their potential benefits and also warning against their inappropriate use. Additionally, we’ll highlight the significance of ruling out medical issues and the value of conducting a comprehensive assessment to create effective intervention plans. In the show notes below, you will find Zulekah’s podcast with her personal story of how she stopped her son’s sensory seeking behaviors by getting a simple blood test! 

If you’re ready to gain valuable insights into sensory issues in children with autism and discover practical strategies to support them, tune in to this episode of the Turn Autism Around podcast. And if you find our content helpful, don’t forget to leave us a review on Apple Podcasts or your preferred platform.

sensory issues