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Hypersensitivities (often misinterpreted as ESP) and other phenomena in autism

Sometimes sensory hypersensitivities are misinterpreted as extrasensory perception (ESP) as ‘normal’ people not only fail to see, hear, smell or feel what some autistic individuals can, but also find it hard to imagine that these experiences are possible because ‘normal’ people are blind, deaf and dumb to the stimuli which are everyday experiences for some autistic individuals. However, there is nothing extrasensory about their ability to hypersense as some autistic people’s senses are so acute that they may see, hear, feel or smell the stimuli that are undetectable by the majority. Their senses are finely tuned to the environment. For example, some react to tiny changes in weather patterns and atmosphere pressure; others can see energy and its movement around them. Many are sensitive to vibration or sensitive to small differences in colour, have enhanced auditory discrimination as if their brains are tuned to higher frequencies. Some autistic children can hear some frequencies that only animals can hear. (By the way, we don’t assume that animals have ESP, do we?)


The ability to hypersense can lead to a hypnotic level of fascination with sensory stimuli that is quite common in autism; a typical picture of an autistic child is when he/she is staring transfixed at something: watching the reflection of light, colour or visual patterns, or absorbed with vibration of sounds, or constantly touching objects of certain texture.

Donna Williams (1999) names it as the beautiful side of autism, the sanctuary of the prison. Autistic individuals can be fascinated with different sensory stimuli, such as the smell of melting candles, the feel of velvet or marble, the look of clouds gliding high, the salty taste of sweat. The sources of fascination are very individual. For example, to some people certain visual patterns are appealing; others may find patterned shape and vibration of noise as it bounces off the walls fascinating. In this sense, autistic perception can be seen as superior to that of people whose senses function ‘normally’.

(Why don’t we appreciate their ability (caused by their heightened senses) to perceive (and experience) colour, sound, texture, smell and taste to a higher degree than people around them? The answer is simple – how can we appreciate something if we have never experienced it? – It’s easier to assume it doesn’t exist.)


- the longer someone stays in this hypnotic state, the more addictive it becomes, and the person may miss out on developing social skills and experiencing the life of the majority. (There should be time and place when and where they can indulge in their fascinations, for example, after activities – especially, social activities).

- the higher-vibration capacity of the senses (unfortunately) goes parallel with the acute, often overwhelming sensitivities, when certain sensory stimuli (which are different for different people) are very disturbing to some autistic individuals.

Resonance, merging and ‘losing oneself’ in sensory stimuli

Fascination with certain stimuli may culminate with ‘losing oneself’ in these stimuli to the extent that one can become ‘resonant’ with them. These terms were introduced by Donna Williams (1998) to define a state when one ‘loses oneself in’/’becomes resonant’ with something else. The person can merge with (lose oneself in) different sensory stimuli as if the person became a part of the stimulus itself. These are very real experiences.

Another interesting feature of the state of ‘resonance’ is when one can sense the surface, texture and density of material without looking at it with physical eyes or touching it with physical hands or tasting it with physical tongue or tapping it to hear how it sounds, that is sensing it with non-physical senses (the so-called ‘shadow senses’ – Williams 1998).

Researchers are catching up with these phenomena. For example, Rosenblum and colleagues (1996; 2007) have conducted experiments showing that we can hear the silent environment because surroundings not only produce sounds we are not consciously aware of, but they also structure them and give them shape, which people can ‘see’ without seeing. References

Bogdashina O. (2010) Autism and the Edges of the Known World. JKP.

Bogdashina O. (2022) Autism. Becoming a Professional Parent: Exploring the Sensory World of Autism. L&L.

Williams D. (1998) Autism and Sensing. JKP.

Williams D. (1999) Somebody Somewhere. JKP.

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5 opmerkingen

Frank Sterle
Frank Sterle
01 aug. 2023

My daily lead-ball-and-chain existence consists of a formidable perfect-storm-like combination of adverse childhood experience trauma, autism spectrum disorder and high sensitivity, the ACE trauma in large part being due to my ASD and high sensitivity.

Thus, it would be very helpful to people like me to have books written about such or similar conditions involving a coexistence of ACE trauma and/or ASD and/or high sensitivity, the latter which seems to have a couple characteristics similar to ASD traits.

The Autistic Brain fails to even once mention the real potential for additional challenges created by a reader’s ASD coexisting with thus exacerbated by high sensitivity and/or ACE trauma.

I also read a book on adverse childhood experience trauma [Childhood Disrupted] that…


Corrina Mulholland
Corrina Mulholland
20 mei 2023

Some of your terminology is primitive "...prison"

02 aug. 2023
Reageren op

Primitive??? Donna Williams created this metaphorical expression (“the beautiful side of autism, the sanctuary of the prison”) to reveal a paradoxical and thought-provoking perspective on this complex condition. Autism, with its unique neurological wiring, offers a lens through which one can appreciate the beauty that lies within its realm.

In this context, autism becomes a sanctuary - a place where she found solace in her own world. And it is within this self-imposed prison that she discovered comfort and security. I love Donna's books, with incredible insights and unique writing style.


05 dec. 2022

On the plus side, I'm old enough to really appreciate the CRT--flatscreen computer revolution. The flat ones don't hum like giant killer mosquitoes ;)


05 dec. 2022

"higher-vibration capacity"

Any chance you could go into this in more detail?

I have a hard time explaining to people the difference between incandescent and LED lights, which they cannot see. But I can see it-- incandescent lights just glow steady, and LEDs are like a strobe light, they go on and off with alternating electrical current--- and some of us can see that very very clearly, to the point where walking into an LED-lit room is exactly like being at the skating rink when they turn on the strobe. Best I can do is "I have a higher refresh rate". But I'm the crazy person for not wanting to live on a disco dance floor :(

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