It Seems He Doesn’t Feel Pain

It’s almost as if my son doesn’t feel pain.  He doesn’t cry much if he falls down or the dog bites him or he skins his elbow.

Last year we were at a function for his school and there were bounce houses and all that fun stuff.  William L-O-V-E-S bounce houses and so he was off and jumping when he saw those.  A few hours later one of his therapists asked if he had hurt his foot.

“Why?” We asked… 

Well apparently he was limping around.  So we got closer to him and he HAD A SAFETY PIN STUCK IN THE BOTTOM OF HIS FOOT!

Uhh yeah, that’s right…a safety pin!  He was just going along, not crying, still bouncing…YIKES!

William also loves the monkey bars.  He is amazing at them…it’s so cool to see how he’s progressed…first I had to hold him, then he would only do a few bars, now he goes back-and-forth, back-and-forth.

Last night I noticed he was looking at his hand…I went to him, asked if he were in pain and he said “Yes” and I looked at his hand.  It had two huge  blisters and was pretty raw…he didn’t cry, didn’t tell us and more importantly–he was continuing on the monkey bars.

So it got me thinking…does having autism hurt?  I know there are sensory issues with children so that pain doesn’t register with them like a “typical” child…but it’s pretty amazing.

It got me thinking about what other Super Human feats of strength those on the spectrum might have that us mere mortals don’t.  I know he can jump on the mini-trampoline longer than any other 6-year-old in the history of the world!

We have friends whose children will cry at the drop of a hat…William will fall down, say “uh-oh…it’s a boo-boo” and then keep on going.

Does anyone else have this experience?

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Seth/Melanie Fowler on Twitter
Seth/Melanie Fowler
Authored, Look at my Eyes, a parent's perspective re: navigating autism-early intervention, insurance, treatments, a paradigm of a family & child with autism
Seth/Melanie Fowler

Seth/Melanie Fowler

Authored, Look at my Eyes, a parent's perspective re: navigating autism-early intervention, insurance, treatments, a paradigm of a family & child with autism

0 thoughts on “It Seems He Doesn’t Feel Pain

  • October 31, 2012 at 6:57 pm
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    My boy’s not autistic, but he does have some sensory issues.  He’ll cry if somebody’s singing, but doesn’t bat an eye if he runs face-first into the dining room table.  Because he did, and now he’s got a grey tooth because of it.  He didn’t so much as blink, he just ran the other way and kept playing.

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  • October 31, 2012 at 4:50 pm
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    While it’s possible that he’s hypo-sensitive it’s also possible that he feels pain perfectly normally.  However, he may be so engaged in certain activities like bouncing or swinging — and the sensory perceptions involved in those motions — that he overlooks the pain.  Or he may purposely continue in them in an attempt to drown out the pain with the pleasurable sensation.  (Kind of like a drunk whose cure for a hangover is to drink more so he doesn’t notice the hangover.)

    Or he may have developed a tolerance to certain stimuli that overwhelm his senses (say if he is hypersensitive to sounds, smells, etc.) so that he has trained himself to not over-respond to unpleasant things.  To parallel this, there was an Olympian (someone who sprinted, either a swimmer or a runner, I forget which) who had asthma — the consistent issues facing breathing had led to development of greater control and discipline which allowed them to excel, despite their apparent disadvantage.
    I have less of a reaction to pain than most people.  As a toddler I wouldn’t fuss when I had an ear infection.  The first sign my Mum would see would be goop oozing out of my ears, whereas my brother and sister both fussed noticeably.  Therefore I’m fortunate that I have several overprotective reactions:(1)  I’m a bit of a wuss and avoid certain dangerous situations, (2) I startle more and jerk away from certain things that head towards me, (3) I sometimes get light headed from small cuts, which makes me actually check and see that I’m bleeding which I hadn’t realised ’cause I didn’t really feel anything, etc.
    Someone did a study giving individuals mild shocks and asking them to rate the pain.  In that study most people correctly objectively gaged and ranked the shocks from mildest to most intense (i.e., they knew when a greater voltage was used).  However, subjective rankings differed greatly —  some considered certain shocks fairly intense that others claimed were minor.  Thus, there was not a threshold effect where some people barely felt low voltage shocks so they couldn’t tell the difference between those that were extremely low and just moderately low.  The subjective rating may have been based on a mixture of culture, genetics, and various experiences.

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  • October 30, 2012 at 5:21 pm
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    My 3 Autistic Nephews are opposite. All three have different levels of autism too. They all freak out when hurt. I wonder if your son has a high pain tolerance like my son. He doesn’t hurt so much anymore where other kids cry. He is type 2 diabetic and gets a lot of shots. Pain is very different for every child.

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