Hyposensitivity to chronoception

What does it mean to be hyposensitive to the concept of time?
IN BRIEF>

Hyposensitivity to chronoception is when a person perceives the passage of time less clearly. The person may have difficulty following a schedule and being on time. Sometimes this means that days of the week, months and years are not well understood. Autistic people have hypersensitivities or hyposensitivities more often, and having a different perception of time is very common in autistic people, but people without any particular developmental diagnosis can also have this condition.

What is hyposensitivity to chronoception?

Hyposensitivity to chronoception is a sensory disorder in which a person’s perception of time is affected. This can lead to difficulties in following a schedule, meeting deadlines and arriving on time. For some people, months, days and years remain abstract concepts. Challenges related to the perception of the passage of time are very common in autism.

Symptoms of hyposensitivity to the passage of time

Symptoms can vary greatly from one person to another.

Consequences of hyposensitivity to chronoception

The consequences of hyposensitivity to chronoception vary greatly from person to person, depending on the intensity of hyposensitivity, age, skills, environment and tools available.

Important

It's pointless and even harmful to reprimand a person who is hyposensitive to the passage of time. A more useful reaction is to provide the tools needed to better understand time. This will help the person and reduce frustration among those close to them.

Scenario

Jade reacts very strongly when it's time to stop an activity. Her parents try to warn her, give her time and make her promise to react calmly. But when the time is up, Jade is convinced that this is impossible, and the frustration this causes her makes her angry. Jade's parents buy some colorful hourglasses. This gives Jade a visual cue of the passage of time, and the end of the activity is much less perceived as unexpected or as a lie. The whole family benefits.

What measures should be taken in the event of hyposensitivity to the passage of time?

The tools are numerous and accessible. They can use other senses such as sight and hearing. If used properly, technology can even enable the adult to hold a job where adherence to a schedule is essential. You can let the person choose their own tools, or help them decide what works for them, but if time perception is very difficult, it’s worth offering to help them set up an effective system.

There are a number of tools that can help you better perceive the passage of time.

Scenario

Samuel often has to make presentations to his colleagues. He doesn't want to look at his watch all the time. So he uses a TimeTimer which he places in front of him. The image of time passing is so clear that his anxiety when performing this task has decreased enormously.

Autism and the perception of time

Other factors can influence autistic people’s perception of time and their reactions to it.

I don't physically feel time passing, so I don't conceptualize it. Even though intellectually I know it's normal not to feel time, my brain wants to feel it and of course it doesn't work.

Autism and dealing with the unexpected

Anything unexpected is much more difficult for most autistic people to deal with than for others. This is why a different understanding of time will have an even greater impact on the person. If they don’t understand the passage of time, it can be experienced as unexpected. For autistic people, unforeseen events are often more complex to manage both pragmatically and emotionally.

Autism and time rigidity

If a time-perception tool is used, but the schedule is not followed to the letter, an autistic person’s reaction may be amplified. They may also perceive the failure to follow the schedule to the letter as a lie or betrayal.

Specific interests and perception of time

An autistic person who doesn’t usually have a different perception of the passage of time may have one when they are busy with their specific interest. It’s up to them to be aware of this and to set reminders to make sure they feed themselves, go to the bathroom, sleep or get ready for their next scheduled activity. If the person is unable to do this, they will need the help of those around them to put in place the tools they need.

Valérie Jessica Laporte

WRITER SPECIALIZING IN AUTISM (FRENCH)