Types of sensory disabilities - House with No Steps

Types of sensory disabilities

Every 7 hours, an Australian child is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.

Different types of sensory disabilities affect one or more senses; sight, hearing, smell, touch, taste or spatial awareness.

What is a sensory disability? A sensory disability is a disability of the senses (e.g. sight, hearing, smell, touch, taste). As 95% of the information about the world around us comes from our sight and hearing, a sensory disability can affect how a person gathers information from the world around them.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)

Autism spectrum disorders are a lifelong developmental disability. They affect the way someone interacts with the world around them, as well as with other people. Around 1 in 200 Aussies have autism (ABS, 2012), and boys are four times more likely to have autism than girls.

The effects of autism are wide ranging and can include difficulties in social interaction and communication, restricted and repetitive interests and behaviours, and sensitivity to sensory experiences – noise, light, touch etc. As ASD can be very variable, the word ‘spectrum’ describes the range of difficulties that someone with autism may experience.

The cause of ASD is not well understood but it is a developmental disability thought to have neurological or genetic causes (or both).

Find out more:

Myths about autism
Blog: Raising a son with autism
Autism Awareness Australia

Blindness and low vision

Blindness and low vision can occur as a result of a number of different diseases, conditions, or accidents. Some eye conditions are congenital (present at or near birth), while others are caused later in life. Vision loss can affect people of all ages, but it is more common with two thirds of people with vision loss being over the age of 65.  

Some of other causes of vision impairment can include injury, eye defects, albinism, macular degeneration, diabetes, glaucoma, cataracts, and tumors. Whilst some forms of vision loss can be prevented and even reversed, others may develop as people age.

Visit Vision Australia for more information.

Hearing loss

Damage to any part of the external, middle, or inner ear can cause hearing loss which can range from being mild to profound.  

If someone is born with hearing loss, this is known as congenital deafness, whereas if hearing loss occurs after birth is it known as adventitious deafness.  The most common cause of adventitious deafness is noise.

Other causes of hearing loss can be quite varied and can include problems with the bones within the ear, damage to the cochlear nerve, genetic disorders, exposure to diseases in utero, age, trauma, and other diseases.

Visit Deaf Australia for more information.

Sensory processing disorder

Sensory processing disorder is a condition that causes difficulties receiving and responding to information from the senses including vision, hearing, touch, smell, and taste.

Sensory information is sensed by the person, however, the brain perceives and analyses the information in an unusual way.  It may affect one sense alone or it may affect multiple senses. 

Someone with sensory processing disorder may have heightened or lowered sensitivity to stimuli such as tolerating light, being touched, sound, eye contact, and pain.

Sensory processing disorder can be a disorder on its own, however it can also be a common characteristic of other disabilities including Autism Spectrum Disorders, dyslexia, MS, and Tourette syndrome.

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