Why “Sensory Friendly” Isn’t always what it seems.

man wearing black headphones beside train rail

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I posed this question on twitter:

The response was overwhelming. It seems a lot of people tend to agree with me.

A number of venues will offer, what they consider to be “sensory friendly” events which they believe caters to those who are Autistic and yes -it does cater to some, but certainly not all.

According to AMC (who works with Autism Speaks) this is how they define their sensory friendly film program:

AMC Theatres in 2007 started the AMC Sensory Friendly Films program in partnership with the Autism Society to bring a unique movie experience to our community! As part of the program the film showings have their lights turned up and the sound turned down.

 

multi colored chairs in row

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My thoughts on something where the lights are on and the sound is down: Terrible. Just awful. For me, not being able to hear dialogue and having bright lights in my face would not be sensory friendly. I function best when the lights are off or there is natural lighting.  Each and every person on the spectrum is different and their ways of mentally processing incoming sensations are all unique to each person. You can’t simply say something is Sensory Friendly and use it as a blanket statement. I believe a better term would be Sensory Aware and a disclaimer that would say something like “this isn’t sensory friendly for every autistic person or person with sensory processing difficulties” would be highly beneficial. It’s just another step towards inclusion or at least a better understanding of what Neurodiversity is.

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Passing Judgment

Throughout my life, people have passed judgment on me based on the way I look, act or quite frankly who I am.

I think the way I present myself has a lot to do with my sensory sensitivities. For instance: I don’t “dress my age” and I prefer wearing comfortable clothing such as shirts that are a men’s size small, jeans, and slip on shoes. I rarely wear makeup and I usually just brush my hair and head out the door. It’s already so mentally trying to go out in to the world that the energy I would use to make myself presentable gets used up so fast. By that time, i’m already beyond drained and I start feeling physically ill.

 

Sometimes I dress very casually and sometimes I look fancy.


My intellectual capacity is clearly questioned because some people, whether it’s conscious or not, believe that the way someone looks has to do with the way they think.

I was treated very poorly at a restaurant and I can’t say for certain that it had anything to do with the way I looked, but I wouldn’t be surprised. It seemed like I was stereotyped as dumb and trashy because of my use of coupons and was spoken down to – which i’m still feeling anxious and upset about.

The English idiom “don’t judge a book by its cover” is a metaphorical phrase which means “you shouldn’t prejudge the worth or value of something by its outward appearance alone”. For example “That man may look very small and insignificant, but don’t judge a book by its cover – he’s a very powerful man in his circle”. —Wikipedia

We all deserve a little kindness and compassion, no matter what we look like.

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Links of interest:

 

Public Transportation

woman standing in bus

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Taking transit requires me to mask, even if I don’t think about it.

I am forced to take on traits that are seemingly exclusive for those who are classified as neurotypical. I have to be confident, organized and seemingly comfortable with everything around me.

The crowds, the chatter, the uneven lighting, the sound of the skytrain screeching along the tracks, the announcements, rude bus drivers, the varying smells and sometimes putrid odors. It may very well seem like i am complaining but I am constantly reminded that the world  is not built for me. I am left handed and i’m autistic – which can feel like a double whammy.

Often times, when i am exposed to many different sensory inputs, I must decompress. I have to sleep a whole lot and often times I don’t feel like talking. My attention span suffers too, i can’t even sit through a 22 minute episode of a television show that I usually enjoy. I have to commend myself through the carsickness that seems to overcome me a whole lot recently.

I am constantly reminded of how hard merely existing is. It makes me incredibly fatigued.