Autism and Sensory Sensitivities

AudioBuddy: AudioBuddy: Using Sound Sensors to Support Sound Sensitivity Awareness in Autistic Individuals

More than half of autistic children experience auditory sensitivity and emotion dysregulation. In particular, certain auditory stimuli may create adverse experiences. At the same time,  emotion dysregulation, particularly when co-occurring with painful or unpleasant auditory experiences, can lead to heightened stress, anxiety, and other mental health concerns. Researchers have aimed to support emotion regulation and auditory sensitivity separately with many interventions. This work builds on those efforts to simultaneously address both emotion regulation and auditory sensitivity, with a particular emphasis on autistic self-advocacy and support for autistic people to take control of their auditory environments themselves. Specifically, based on empirical data from two autistic self-advocacy online forums and the existing research literature, we designed and developed an assistive wearable and smartphone application that will notify users of increased sound levels in their environment while also providing coping methods to support emotion regulation in overwhelming situations and to encourage self-advocacy to change the contexts of those situations.

Coping Their Way: Social Support for Noise Sensitivity in Two Online Autism Forums

Noise sensitive people can experience discomfort, annoyance, difficulty concentrating, and even pain in the presence of a variety of noises. While noise sensitivity is a challenge for a wide variety of people, it is particularly prevalent for autistic people. Research on supporting noise sensitivity leans toward changing and adapting the behavior of those who are sensitive to noise rather than understanding how societies can better accommodate them and create more accessible environments. Applying a social support framework, we examine noise sensitivity through the lens of two online communities focused on autistic people. The results of our analysis of both original discussion forum posts about noise sensitivity and comments in response to them revealed how autistic people, their parents and caregivers, and community allies each use social support within their respective roles both in online communities and offline. We find that the design of these online forums affects how users access social support, and in particular, these autism-friendly spaces support autistic people directly alongside other community members.

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