For some people with autism the perception, processing and management of senses can be challenging. This can have a profound effect on someone with autism's life.

Someone's senses can be over or under sensitive, or both, at different times and can affect someones behaviour.  

There can be situations when something can be alerting or calming for a person to deal with.  

Calming sensations are:

Predictable, rhythm, gentle, repetitive, quieter, linear, slower, longer and/or firmer.

Alerting sensations are:

Unpredictable, stronger, variable, tickly, louder, jerky, fast In short bursts, more extreme and/or brighter.

Movement or Position of the Body 

This sense both calms and alerts – a person with autism can use it for both.

  • Stretching (such as Yoga)
  • Pushing and/or Pulling
  • Heavy work (such as digging or moving a wheelbarrow)
  • Exercise
  • Jumping
  • Carrying (such using a weighted backpack)

Head Movement


Decreasing Arousal

  • Head upright and still
  • Movement in one plane (linear – like on a swing) 
  • Lying down (perhaps on a beanbag or comfortably on the floor)
  • Gentle rocking (maybe using a rocking chair) 
  • Gentle swinging 
  • Bouncing (maybe on a gym ball)
  • Slow movement 

Increasing Arousal

  • Movement out of straight planes (diagonal)
  • Spinning
  • Being upside down 
  •  Going backwards
  • Moving fast & unpredictably
  • Violent rocking or swinging
  • Jerky movement (like starting and stopping in traffic)

The Five Senses


Decreasing Arousal

  • Vibrating sounds
  • Predictable
  • Soft sounds
  • Rhythmical
  • No speech 
  • Rhyming
  • Humming
  • Quiet sounds

Increasing Arousal

  • Lots of language
  • Speech in sentences
  • Talking 
  • Loud sounds or noises
  • No rhythm
  • Unpredictable sounds – like screams or shouting 


Decreasing Arousal

  • No smells
  • Gentle smells
  • Sweet smells (such as vanilla or lavender)

Increasing Arousal

  • Strong smells
  • Citrus/sour
  • Bitter
  • Smoky
  • Air Freshener


Decreasing Arousal

  • Pale or dark colours
  • Dim lighting
  • Clear forms
  • Staying still
  • Familiar places
  • Few items to look at

Increasing Arousal

  • Public places
  • Lots of items to look at 
  • Crowds Moving through a place
  • Unfamiliar places
  • Bright colours or lights


Decreasing Arousal

  • Similar textures and flavours
  • Sweet flavours
  • Vanilla Sucking (such as on a sweet)
  • Blowing bubbles
  • Salty or Brine
  • Biting
  • Crunching (such as frozen foods)

Increasing Arousal

  • Lots of different textures & flavours
  • Sour
  • Spicy
  • Citrus
  • Chewing (Gum)
  • Bitter
  • Smoky
  • Licking


Decreasing Arousal

  • Cool to neutral warmth
  • Expected touch (i.e. letting someone know before you touch them)
  • Predictable touch (i.e. repetitive movements)
  • Similar textures
  • Stroking
  • Deep pressure

Increasing Arousal

  • Extreme temperatures 
  • Unexpected touch
  • Unpredictable touch
  • Lots of differing textures
  • Tickling Light pressure

Autism Wessex is registered in England & Wales under charity number 1000792 at Charity Hub, Portfield School, Parley Lane, Christchurch, BH23 6BP. We use cookies to improve your experience using this website.
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