Sensory issues can be quite varied among autistic people, even though only a handful of sensory issues get a lot of attention.

The more common sensory issues that you may have heard or read about in the autistic population are:

  • Certain fabrics, clothing tags
  • Certain food textures (e.g., an autistic person may find pudding, mashed potatoes and applesauce quite aversive in feel, while another autistic person may find these textures quite pleasing).
  • Fluorescent lighting
  • Sounds of alarms, any loud noise
  • Background or softer noise such as humming appliances, people talking outside their home, the sound of paper tearing (though that can be soothing to some autistic people too!).
  • Many people in a room talking
  • Crowds
  • Subtle changes in ambient temperature

We usually don’t hear about the really odd and unusual sensory issues. Well, you’re about to.

I have a clinical diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Below are my sensory issues. For real. I can’t help it. My brain is wired to find these experiences quite aversive.

Nothing occurred in my childhood or at any other point in my life to have caused my aversion to these stimuli.

Stickers and Labels

Shutterstock/Mirco Vacca

If I’m picking up an object such as a water bottle that has a price sticker on it, I will make sure my thumb and fingers do not touch the sticker.

If the sticker is big enough not to look like a sticker, this won’t be as much of an issue.

The stickers and labels on new merchandise that I buy — such as a yard tool, broom, houseplant pot and drinking glass – must come off in their entirety.

I can’t work with the product until the sticker comes off – even if I must spend good time scraping every last bit off with an X-acto knife.

I used to buy loaves of bread a lot. Every bag had these tiny white stickers on them. I’d have to peel it off before putting the bag in my cart.

Stickers on fruit are sliced out with a knife, taking some fruit with it. If the knife touches the sticker, I use a new knife.

This sounds like OCD, but it’s autism because the reason I do this is revulsion at the sticker, rather than feeling something bad will happen if I don’t remove it.

The removal of any and all stickers is not about germs. I can’t explain it. It’s just a…revulsion.

There are grimy dirty stickers on weightlifting equipment at the gym. If my fingertips or palm accidentally contacts them while I’m holding onto the equipment to do some stretching, I will immediately detect the feel of this and withdraw my hand as though the surface is hot. I’ll be like, “Eeeuuww!” and rub my hand and fingers on my shirt.

I’ve placed items with stubborn stickers in the dishwasher to rid them.

If a container of food has a sticker on the bottom, rather than put myself through the unpleasant task of removing it, I will place the container on a paper plate.

I will not drink out of a glass if there’s a sticker on its bottom. If I were at someone’s house who served me a glass of lemonade or something, and I noticed a sticker on the bottom, I would not use the glass. I’d tell them why, too.

Gel Caps Stuck at Top of Bottle

After removing a supplement, I turn the bottle upside-down to know I used it that day. The next day I turn it back up, and so on and so forth.

Leaving it upside-down, though, often causes gel caps to collect at the rim of the opening and get stuck there.

When I open the bottle, I’m unable to look at this. I cannot stand the sight of gel caps stuck at the opening of the bottle.

Thus, when I open it I don’t look and instead feel with my fingers if there’s a layer of gel caps stuck there. If I feel it I’ll push them back into the bottle before I look.

Tumbleweeds Under Cars

Stefan.lefnaer, CC BY-SA 4.0/ Wikimedia Commons

I live in an area that’s windy, where tumbleweeds are common. Damn, I find the sight of tumbleweeds wedged under a car quite distressing.

If my eyes just happen to land on this scene, I immediately look away.

I’m able to hold long eye contact with another person without any problem. Even though I’m autistic, I can’t comprehend how eye contact, especially very brief, could be so unbearable to some autistic people.

But tumbleweeds under a car? Just one second causes internal distress. Maybe this is how some autistic people feel with eye contact.

The Door Edge

If I’m in a room where a door is open, and its edge is facing me such that I can’t see either side of the door, I will either move my body so that I can see a side, or, I’ll move the door if I can’t move my body.

I once lived in an apartment where the door wouldn’t stay open. It would always move a little – right into the position of its edge facing me squarely if I was on the toilet.

I’d have to make a point of remembering to close it further whenever I used the toilet.

But there were times I’d forget this. I’d be on the toilet, pushing out a BM, and notice the edge facing me squarely.

I’ve literally gotten off the toilet mid-BM to move that damn door.

If I’m on my treadmill and notice that the door edge is facing me, I’ll get off and move it.

If I can’t move the door due to my location, I’ll make a concerted effort not to look in that direction.

The Big Spoon

I remember this starting in grade school. I refused to use a standard size spoon for cereal, pudding and ice cream. It had to be a soup spoon. Two of my siblings ribbed me for this.

It wasn’t until middle age that I finally decided enough of this; I’m using regular spoons. This was the day my soup spoons were in the dishwasher, and the new utensil set that I had recently purchased included regular spoons.

“Those Plastic Glasses”

My siblings ribbed me for this one, too. My mother wanted us to use these clear “plastic glasses” for soda, juice and milk.

When cold fluids were in these large, sturdy, clear cups, this fogged them up.

My fingertips on the glasses left “prints” in the fog. I found this visually distressing, and I also didn’t like the feel of my fingertips on the cold glasses. I soon refused to drink out of them.

White Plastic Utensils

I’ll use only clear, black or colored. I can’t use white plastic utensils.

On a few occasions I had no choice, and it was unpleasant.

Loose Carrots in a Bag


They must be lined up, parallel. I make sure of this when loading the bag at the store.

If one juts out of place from bag handling, I promptly fix this. The sight causes internal distress.

However, even the thought that there’s a bag of full-length carrots in my refrigerator in which a few, even one, is out of alignment, is quite distracting.

Thus, after using the bag I make sure they’re all parallel before putting it back into the refrigerator.

THIS is more like it!

Human Breath

I’m not sure this is related to my autism, but I suspect it is because I seem to be the only person who has a huge problem with this.

I find the odor of human breath, which I frequently smell at the gym, unbearable.

Shutterstock/Aaron Amat

I instantly get pissed at the offender for not brushing his teeth before stepping into the gym.

I will almost gag. I’ve held my shirt up to my nose while walking through the “zone of breath,” often not knowing whom the offender is.

I often can smell breath when I’m talking to someone. Am I the only one this sensitive?

Bad breath is a heavily searched topic. There are always TV commercials for halitosis. Dentists write about it. The problem is very well-known.

But again…I seem to be the only one who so easily detects foul breath (actually, there’s no such thing as good breath) in the gym.

I also seem to be the only person who finds the odor nothing less than unbearable.

Straw Wrappers

If I’m dining out with people and they leave straw wrappers on the table in my visual field, we have a problem.

I will discreetly place the catsup or salt shaker between the wrapper and my line of vision.

If I can’t do this I’ll make an effort not to land my eyes on the straw wrapper. I have also secretly whisked the wrapper to the floor when fellow diners weren’t looking.

More Unconventional Sensory Issues to My Autism

There are more, but I’ll stop here. My sensory issues will make no sense to neurotypical people. However, they are very easily managed. For most of them it’s an issue of “Don’t look there.”

These sensory issues don’t interfere with day-to-day living, even though it may seem that way.

Of course, 20 minutes removing stickers from stuff I just bought from the store is 20 minutes I can be doing something much more appealing, but I often do the sticker removals while listening to the news.

Lorra Garrick has been covering medical and fitness topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer. In 2022 she received a diagnosis of Level 1 Autism Spectrum Disorder. 


Top image: Shutterstock/Platslee