Being Different: Heightened Senses

super senses autism
Heightened senses don't always make you a superhero.
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I see spots. My world looks like it is viewed through an old static covered television screen. I don't mean the little floaty looking things that I and other people see before a migraine goes into full bloom. I mean if I could one see a one inch square area, it would hold around a million spots. My life is literally made of pixels. While you might think it blurs my vision, I haven't seen a line in the distance that I can't read yet. On its own, this issue is just bizarre. Coupled with a few other things, the picture gets a bit more clear.

As a child, I never even heard the word 'autism'. As an adult, I hear it all the time, but it took years for me to make any kind of connection. In an odd way, I feel some gratitude for that because after working in the mental health field, I know the medications I would have been subjected to as a child.

As a child I was given the nickname “Pokey” and it was used so frequently that I never even knew my real name until I went to kindergarten and got in trouble for writing my nickname on the paper rather than my real one. “Pokey” was born of all the issues I had refusing to crawl, eat, and play with other children. My parents thought I was what they called back then “retarded”. The doctor told them I was stubborn.

It took years before I realized that other people didn't see like I did, but it only took one incident and a series of experiments to verify what I learned from that one incident for me to realize I was different in more ways than one.

I was about 10 and my stepmother was making us collect cans, which is a nice way of saying she was having me steal cans that other people had collected. As I walked up to one home I could “hear” the television. I didn't hear the voices from it. I heard the television itself and let my stepmother know it. She thought I was being stubborn and made me get the cans anyhow, but by the look on her face and the face of my sister, I could tell they didn't hear it. I tested this at home a couple of times, turning the volume off of the television and asking if it was on. They never heard what I did and to be fair, it can't be called a sound. It's more of an imperceptible (to most) vibration.

I grew up with books as friends. My eyes have paid the price for that. With just about every visit to the eye doctor I would ask about the spots I saw. Did they assume I was exaggerating? Maybe so because they all attributed it to the migraines I had, though there is an obvious difference between the floaties and the spots that cover everything I see. Finally, as an adult I went to see a neurologist because my migraines were far too frequent and unbearable.

I explained to my neurologist that I saw these spots all the time. He tried to attribute it to the migraines until I explained I also saw floaties before a migraines, constantly saw auras that were sometimes so blinding I had to look away, got nauseous, sometimes had tunnel vision right before my migraines, and got dizzy...all right before a migraine. He ordered an MRI, CT scan, and EEG saying he had seen all of my symptoms in migraine patients, but never had seen them all in one patient. He was concerned about a possible tumor.

When I came back the office to learn of the results he told me that all the tests had come up normal, but he wanted to discuss these spots. After doing some research, he had learned that children with autism sometimes reported seeing spots that covered everything they looked at.


I thought back to my childhood. I remembered the times when I was convinced I was an alien. I knew I was different from other people and that I had a few issues that most people didn't seem to have. Certain sounds actually hurt and repetitive noises were absolutely unbearable. I found an incredible amount of joy in specific textures and had frequently experienced absence seizures. Water in particular held a fascination for me and if anyone had allowed me to, I could simply hold my hand under the faucet for hours and enjoyed the sensation of the constant stream of water.

Although I can fixate on one subject for days and certain types of puzzles hold absolutely no challenge whatsoever for me, I am no savant. Like anyone else, I might be if the correct key was found to unlock it, but until then, I am just overly book smart. My social skills are vastly limited. One of the ironies I experience is that I have no problem with eye contact, but this is because of a strict rule I was taught; liars can't look you in the eye. As a child, liars were the worst sort of people, so I made a rule for myself to always look people in the eyes, though it is admittedly sometimes painful.

Having heightened senses in some areas is of no benefit to me that I can see. It makes it difficult to be around others sometimes and I am extremely picky about the lighting and the sounds that take place in my own home. I rationalize that what I have in excess in some areas most certainly must have taken away from the complete picture in other areas, namely social cues.

My “issues” were not treated with medication and though I stopped researching them long ago and simply learned to embrace who I am, I don't think my issues have names. As far as I can see they are actually very common in the world of autism.

My “cure” I'm afraid was growing up in an abusive home with no room for tolerance. The fact that my stepmother preferred to keep me in my room as much as possible was probably more of a blessing to me than anything since the social traits I do have most likely came from what I gleaned from the books that kept me company. But books don't have facial expressions and that's where I get no help at all from any of my reading or traits. I most often don't understand subtle cues that might guide my responses and because of that, I make a lot of social blunders.

Does this mean that since I don't outwardly display autistic tendencies that I have been cured of the things that would most certainly have placed me in that category? I'm not sure if “cure” is the right word. Certainly I have made extreme efforts to deal with some of my issues, but my guess is that most people don't even know they exist, or if they do, they don't know the extent of them.

As for what my heightened senses can do to benefit my life, I can only say that maybe I can help myself and my loved ones save a bit of money by noticing that an unwatched television is on. There is no cure and I'm not sure that at this stage in my life I would want one.

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