Research to understand why people with autism or ADHD experience difficulties with sensory input and motor skills.
Kajsa Igelström, an assistant professor at Linköping University in Sweden, is researching why people with autism or ADHD experience issues with sensory input and motor skills. Her research shows that people cannot be divided into two distinct groups – those who do have autism and those who do not. Instead, autism is expressed to a greater or lesser degree, with people displaying a wide range of behavior in the functions affected by autism.
Igelström’s research has found connections between sensitivity to everyday noise and autistic traits, such as inflexibility, poor communicative and social skills. Her team is now using virtual reality (VR) headsets to simulate images and sound, in order to investigate how the sound environment affects higher cognitive functions.
Igelström was diagnosed with autism as a teenager. She now believes her most prominent traits, such as attention to detail, hyperlogical thinking, analytical abilities, and an capacity for intense focus, are valuable in her role as researcher. She also believes that neuropsychiatric disorders bring a mixture of strengths and weaknesses, and that there is a lot to be gained by arranging surroundings that work for the individual.
Ultimately, Igelström hopes her research will help us to understand how sensorimotor functions differ from one person to another, and how disorders in these functions affect more complex behaviours in neuropsychiatric conditions. This knowledge can be used as a basis for recommendations of how children and adults can best be supported. She also believes that support should be available for those who have not received an autism diagnosis, as reality is not always so black and white.