How sickness and injuries can affect autistic children and why

Does your child seem to overreact when they are poorly or injured? Does every little bump seem like the end of the world or a common cold come across like they are incredibly ill?

Or do they not react at all to illness and bounce around the house with a temperature? Would they break their arm and seem not to notice?

Last night my son all of a sudden had a major meltdown. I had no idea why. I hadn’t seen any build up and had been unable to avoid it. One minute he was happily watching a video on YouTube and the next he was on the floor screaming. In the end I worked it out and the reason was that he has a cold and couldn’t breathe properly through his nose which he struggles to cope with. After a while he was calm enough for me to find some nasal spray and lemsip and eventually I got him to bed.

He gets like this with most sickness. If he feels like he is going to be sick, he screams and screams and cant cope with the feeling. One time we ended up stuck at a toll booth on the way from Miami to Orlando for a good hour waiting for him to calm down because he didn’t feel well.

He also really struggles with wobbly teeth! Fortunately he is nearly out of baby teeth now because the meltdowns due to wobbly teeth can be multiple daily until the tooth is gone!

My son is the opposite when he hurts himself. Light touch can be painful to him so someone stroking his arm would hurt, however if he ran into a door frame and banged his head really hard, he wouldn’t even react because he wouldn’t feel it.

There are other autistic children who don’t seem to even notice if they are sick at all. Their parents say they can have a high temperature and still be running round the house. If they fell and hurt themselves they would seem not to notice.

It all comes down to sensory processing. Some people have difficulties processing the information about their senses sent to their brains. Some children with sensory processing difficulties will under react to sensory input. This means they end up needing and seeking more stimulation in order to function. Other children’s brains over react to sensory input so they end up avoiding it or becoming overwhelmed.
If you want to understand a little more how your child processes sensory things then I would suggest having a read of this article. It can depend on a child’s sensory processing how they interpret and react to sickness and injury.

This is why my son appears to be completely overreacting to having a common cold. It isn’t his fault at all, in fact to him the cold is so much worse than it would be to me. Every symptom is magnified to the extent that it is causing him great distress. He is becoming overwhelmed very easily and is constantly on edge. My strategy to get through this cold is lots of patience and understanding that to him it feels terrible.

How does your child react to being poorly or injured? How do you help when they are in that situation? Let us know in the comments.

How sickness and injuries can affect autistic children and why
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Published by Autism Kids on Tour - Autism without limits

I have two kids and love to show them the world. We dont let autism limit us in our adventures! I write about our adventures and include tips on how suitable activities were for children with autism. I also write more autism specific posts.

4 thoughts on “How sickness and injuries can affect autistic children and why

  1. Its like my boy is wired back to front tiny pin prick cut and omg its the end of the world but yet a broken arm in 3 places it does not bother him.

    Jack does not get I’ll that often well not that I notice or he complains about, but when his noes is blocked he acts like ive cut off his noes but we have some fab stuff that works so well he does not have a blicked noes after an hour ish.

    He does not feel the cold much either he quite happily swims in lakes in nov, dec, jan feb etc. But if he out in a bit of rain he acts like he got hypothermia!


  2. So, would you say that feeling faint and nearly passing out when they have suffered an injury could be due to sensory processing? I can’t figure out if it’s blood, pain or the stress and anxiety or a combination. He just suddenly feels faint and goes kind of yellowy/green and we have to lay him down with elevated feet.

    1. My daughter is exactly the same and always has been. I think for her it is a mixture of sensory processing and being extremely squeemish. She will literally run away if she sees a first aid kit! You could be right about it being a combination.

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