Barriers which can disturb people (English, easy language)

(Info: Illustration by Amy Rose of our Team)

From the guest article of the ESH, Enthinderungsselbsthilfe - the list of barriers was chosen as basis for a bachelor thesis "Identification of barriers for the school participation of autistic persons".


Since the White Unicorn e.V. is further developing this list of barriers in the research network, it has been expanded and supplemented here, so that it can be found modified. The results of the bachelor thesis have been included and a translation into Easy Language with illustrations has taken place. 

4. Survey on Barriers for autistic People.pdf

1. Many and fast movements in the human world

Where people live and work, many things move. For example cars, billboards which change over and over again, people, machines. And other things.


For some people, that's bad. Many fast movements disturb these people very much. Or when things move in different directions. Like cars on a road. The cars go left and right. For some people this is so bad that they can't see and hear anything at all.


Out in nature things are different. Things move there, too: grass, leaves, animals, water in a stream. But they don’t move that fast. And they are not that loud. And confusing like in the human world. That is why, for most people, being out in nature is pleasant. You can relax in nature. It's like on vacation.


Many and fast movements in the human world disturb some people very much. They feel much better without these movements.

2. If you constantly have to change surroundings and rooms

The environment is what is around us. The apartment, for example. The work place. The supermarket. The roads outside. Or the forest, where we are hiking.


In the human world the environment often changes very quickly. There's a car coming. People are running to the right and left of you. There are stairs up ahead. There are trees along the road.


Most people see how big or small a thing is. How close or how far away it is. Or how high the steps of a staircase are. Some people can't do that. Or they can’t do that as quick as others. The eyes need a little longer to recognize that.


An example:

A boy walks along a path. He's getting to a staircase. His eyes can’t see quickly enough that there are steps. Or how high the steps are. For some people the steps don't look like steps at all. It's like a flat path. Or the floor and stairs look like waves. This happens when the eyes cannot switch quickly enough.


When you have to change environments and spaces constantly, this is difficult for some people. Because then they have to pay attention all the time. That's pretty exhausting. It causes headaches. These people feel better when they don't have to do this.

3. Too many things at once if you concentrate

Some people have a tunnel view when they are very concentrated.


That means:

They only see what's in front of them. They can't see what's happening right next to them. And they can't say exactly how far away things are. Or how big or small something is. For example, they see things closer than they really are. 


This can be very practical. For example, if you want to read a timetable. And the timetable is written in small letters. You'll see the timetable bigger than it is. And you can read it much better.


These people just want to read the timetable. Everything else disturbs them. If they have to take care of other things then maybe that's too much. Then they can no longer concentrate properly. And then the brain just shuts down at some point.


If they just focus on one thing, it's great for them.

4. When certain patterns are a problem

For some people certain patterns are a big problem. For example, the grooves of an escalator. Or black and yellow stripes like a bee. They look at the pattern and can no longer move. Or they can't do anything at all. Not even think or talk. Sometimes it just causes headaches.


People are different. For some, the grooves on an escalator are really bad. For other people, other designs are very bad. Like black-yellow things. Then a few people with yellow warning vests can already be too much for them. Or black and yellow seats in a bus.


It's always the same patterns which are difficult. For one it's always black and yellow things. For other people it's always things with very narrow grooves. And for other people it's always grids with the same pattern. For example, a grid in front of a front door. To clean your shoes.


Certain patterns are difficult for some people. They feel much more comfortable if these patterns do not exist. Or if they don't have to look at these patterns.

5. Reflections

If you look into a mirror, you can see yourself. You can also see yourself on other smooth surfaces. For example on a glass pane. Or on a water surface. This image is called a reflection.


For some people, reflections are difficult. They can't see: What is real and what is the reflection? Because the reflection looks so real.


Sometimes you can only see the light from a lamp on the smooth surface. Or the sun.


Reflections can be very bright. Reflections are too bright for some people. They're so bright people can't see anything else. They also say: The light dazzles them. Just like the sun. When it shines right into the eyes.


These people feel better when this doesn’t happen.

6. Too bright light

Most people need bright light so they can work properly. Other people need much less light. A lot of light is too bright for them. They prefer to be where there is little light. That's just right for them.


Bright light is really bad for these people. That's why they often use sunglasses during the day. Or a hat. Even if the sun isn't shining.


The sunglasses and the hat are important for these people. They protect them from the bright light. If they are forbidden to do so, they will feel very bad.


Bright light disturbs these people very much. They're much more comfortable when it's not so bright.

7. Artificial Light

Artificial light is light from a lamp. It could be lamps in houses. Or the light from car headlights. Or the light of traffic lights. Or the light from flashlights.


The opposite of artificial light is natural light. For example, sunlight. Some people cannot tolerate certain lamps very well. For example, car headlights. Or traffic lights. They're very bright. The lights hurt their eyes. And dazzle them. Like the light from the sun. When you look directly into the sun. These people then always have to look aside.


Certain lamps flicker when they are on. For example, tube lamps. Or energy-saving lamps. They flicker so fast that most people don't even see it. Some people do see that. For them, the lamp turns on and off very quickly. All the time. That's pretty exhausting. And it causes headaches.


Certain lamps disturb these people a lot. They prefer light that isn't so dazzling. And they need lamps which shine evenly.

8. Coloured texts and markings

Sometimes a person sees everything like through a colourful glass pane. Reddish, for example. Or yellowish. This happens especially when he's under stress.


Some people also see flying spots in the air. Or lines that move. Nobody else sees the dots or lines.


These people are less able to read coloured texts. Or text on a coloured background. Or coloured marks in a text. For example, coloured stamps. Or marks with a text marker.


Coloured texts and marks disturb these people very much. Or if the text is on a coloured background.


For these people it is better if the background is not coloured. Or the text. And if there are no coloured marks in the text.

9. When familiar places and things suddenly look different

People get used to the look of certain places. Like the look of their house. Or from the street with the church and the gas station. Or from the shelves in the supermarket.


If something changes in this appearance, this can be difficult for some people. Then the place looks like a different place. And they don't know exactly where they are anymore.


This is particularly bad when these people are under a lot of stress. Then even a very small difference is enough. For example, mowed grass. Or a trimmed hedge. Or if the milk in the supermarket has been placed somewhere else. If these people have little or no stress then it's not so bad.


When places or things suddenly look different, it bothers some people a lot. Especially if they are under a lot of stress. They're more comfortable with places and things which always look the same. 

10. Many new and unknown shapes and things

We humans have many ideas. And we invent something new all the time. That's why we humans see new things all the time. This is not the case in nature. Nature does not always invent something new.


Some people see, hear, smell, taste or feel more than others. They can memorize things better than other people. And they remember everything faster, too. They look closely. They're learning. And then they know what it is. If these people see a lot of new things, it will take longer.


It bothers these people a lot when they see a lot of new things at once. Or when they hear, smell, taste or feel them at once. It's very exhausting for them. They feel more comfortable if there are not too many new things at once. Or if they have enough time. So they can take a closer look. 

11. Noises from the human world

Where people live you hear many different things. For example cars, machines, children scream, dogs bark, and many other things. It's all noise.


Most people get used to the sounds of their place. From their place of residence, for example. Or from their work place. Or their town. The noises are simply part of it. The people don't even listen to it anymore.


Some people don't like these sounds. Then they don't feel safe. Not like at home. They prefer it quiet at home. When they have all these noises around them, they don't feel well. It's like a mush of many noises. Or that loud noise next to a motorway. You don't understand anything anymore.


These people feel better when they are somewhere out in nature. Where it's very quiet. Or when they're alone in a room. Where they can't hear what's happening outside. Then they feel at home. The many different noises from the human world disturb them very much.

5. Noise as a barrier for autistic people.pdf

12. Loudness

Some people can hear very well. They hear everything louder than most people. Even what the other people say.


The normal volume is too loud for these people. For example, they like to use ear plugs when they go to a cinema. Because it's usually way too loud for them there. With the ear plugs they hear exactly right.


When these people talk, they usually speak very softly. But it's still loud enough for them. Because they hear much better than most people.


This is different when they talk to people with normal hearing. Then they speak up. So that people with normal hearing understand it. It's very exhausting for them.


People with normal hearing are also familiar with this. When they talk to people who are deaf or partially deaf, they often speak up. So that the deaf and partially deaf people understand it. This is also very exhausting for people with normal hearing.


Normal volume is too loud for some people. They feel better when it's quiet. Or when people speak more quiet or soft.

13. Sounds which are too quiet for others to hear

There are sounds in our world that most people can't hear. For example, very high frequencies. Like the screaming of a bat. And the whistle sounds of a anti marten device. Or very low notes. Or very soft tones. Like the humming of electrical lines in the wall.


Some people can hear very well. They can still hear these sounds. Everywhere it hums and whistles. Some of these sounds are very bad for these people. For example, the sound of the anti marten device. It hurts in their ears. Or the whole body hurts. They can't stand those sounds. And these sounds disturb them very much. The anti marten device not only drives away the marten. It also drives these people away.


Other sounds are not so bad. Or don't bother at all. Like the sound of the bat.


Some sounds are very bad for some people. They feel better if these sounds don't exist.

14. Disturbing smells

A smell is air that smells like something. Sometimes the air smells good. And sometimes it stinks.


Some people can smell really well. They smell things other people can't smell. Or for them a certain smell is very horrible. For example, cleaning products. Or a toilet. For some people a smell can be very terrible that other people like. Perfume, for example. Or coffee. When these people smell something like that, it's often very bad for them.


Other people don't like it when it smells different everywhere. For example: There's a smell of detergent in the basement. That smells good. Then the person goes from the cellar into the kitchen. It smells like food there. For him this change is terrible.


Certain smells disturb some people a lot. Or if it smells differently everywhere. These people feel better if that is not the case. 

15. Unwanted flavour

Some people can't eat certain things. They don't like the things. Or they find certain things disgusting. These can be very different things. Some people don't like certain fruits. Others cannot eat certain types of vegetables. And others find sausage or other things disgusting.


These people don't want to eat these things. You can't force them either. If they have to eat something like that, it's terrible for them. Then they'd rather not eat anything at all. But they have their favourite food. They can eat it every day.


Some people find unwanted flavours very disturbing. These people feel better when they don't have to eat these things.

16. Vibrations: When the ground and the walls are shaking

Sometimes the ground is shaking. Or the walls of a house are shaking. For example, when a truck is passing by. Or a train. Or when a lot of people are running across a hallway. The shaking is called vibrations. 


Most people don't even notice the vibrations. Or they don't mind.


However, some people feel the vibrations quite strongly. The trembling or shaking disturb them very much. They aren’t able to think properly. Or they can not learn properly. Or they don't work properly anymore. These people feel better in houses which don't shake.

17. Temperature differences

Temperature means how hot or cold something is. Sometimes the temperature changes. For example, when you walk out of a building. It's warm inside and cold outside.


Most people can feel whether it is too hot or too cold. Like when it's cold outside. Then you know: "I have to dress warm." Or if the water in the shower is too hot. Then you know, "I have to turn the water colder."


Some people are different. They not only feel whether something is too hot or too cold. They feel the warm water in the shower and the colder air in the bathroom at the same time. And maybe the shower gel is colder than the water. Or when they're outside: Then they feel the cold winter air and the warmer air where the sun shines.


These people can feel different temperatures particularly well. They also automatically know what is just right for their body. For example, which clothes they should wear.


When temperatures change again and again, it can be difficult for these people. It is easier for them if everything is equally warm. For example the water in the shower, the air in the bathroom and the shower gel.

18. Air movements

A little breeze on the skin is pleasant for most people.


However, some people feel the wind on their skin very strongly. And they find this very bad. Then they put on long trousers and things with long sleeves. Even in summer. When it's hot. Because they don't want to have the wind on their skin.


If the wind is very strong it can be the other way around. That's what these people find particularly pleasant. And they put on things with short sleeves. Even when it's cold outside.


A lot of people don't understand that. And want to force them to wear something else. That's very bad for them. Many no longer fight it. Because they don't have the courage to do so. Or because they can no longer defend themselves. You just have to leave those people alone. They should be able to wear whatever they want. Then it's all good.

19. Getting too close unintentionally

Some people don't want other people to touch them. For example, just touch them like that. Or push them. Or stand very close to them. In the bus or in the train, for example. Sometimes that happens anyway. That hurts these people. Or the spot on the skin feels dead.


That's why these people don't want other people to get too close. Only certain people are allowed to do that. Then touches don't hurt either.


It bothers these people a lot when other people get too close unintentionally. Or when other people unintentionally touch them. They feel better when other people are far enough away from them.

20. Things which feel terrible

Some people don't want to touch certain things. Wet textiles, for example. Or sticky dough. Or plastic bags. Or they don't want to feel certain things on their skin. Or do not run over certain types of ground.


These people find this terrible. Some people find it so bad that they get sick. And have to vomit. 


These people feel much better when they don't have to touch certain things. Or if they don't have to walk over certain types of ground.

21. Unlevel and uneven ground in the human world

The ground in places or cities is mostly man-made. With asphalt, like on the road. Or with cobblestones, like on paths and squares. Sometimes with wood or earth, like in gardens and parks.


In towns and cities, you always have to be careful where you go. The ground is constantly changing. There are stairs and steps everywhere. And you have a lot of other things to watch out for. That's too much for some people. Then it can happen that they become dizzy.


Out in nature it’s different. There you can walk for hours on a forest path. Or on a field path. Or on grass soil. These people are feeling better there. The ground is not always level there either. But there's not so much noise. And they don't have to pay attention to so many other things.


Many different types of ground in the city are difficult for these people. Especially when the ground is uneven and not level. These people feel much better when there are not so many different floors.

22. Fellow humans as a possible threat

Something is a threat means: something terrible is coming. Or something dangerous. And you don't want that. 


People around me are fellow humans. For example parents, siblings, the boss and colleagues, people in the sports club, or teachers and children at school.


All people are different. Some people are particularly good at hearing. Normal volume is much too loud for them. Others don't want other people to get too close. Others find light winds on their skin quite horrible. And they always wear things with long sleeves. Even in summer. When it's hot.


Many people don't understand that. And they may say: "Put on a shirt with short sleeves." Or: "But you have to go to school. Even if the other children there are so loud." They don't want to hurt these people. Well, they do. They just don't notice.


Therefore, the fellow humans can be a threat to these people. They feel much better when their fellow humans leave them alone.

23. Order, because in the human world there are too many obstacles

For some people, life in the human world is quite difficult. Their brains process much more than those of other people. Everywhere they see, hear, smell, taste or feel many different things. All the time. And a lot of things at once. Just a little bit. In a very short time. This is so tiring. These people can hardly stand that. They know perfectly well that it is like that every day. At school, for example. Or at work. It's called overloading the senses.


These people don't want that. Because they can't stand it. Sometimes others say: "You have to stand it!" At home. Or at school. Or at the workplace. Then order is very important for these people. Everything must be at its place. And everything has to be done exactly the same way as always. So the brain has a break. Otherwise their body will be overburdened at some point. Then they just fall down. Or they can't move anymore. Or they can’t talk. Then nothing works anymore. These people need order. So their body can work. But that's only going well for a while.


These people prefer to be in a known and safe environment. Where they don't have to take so much at once. At home, for example. Then these people can learn better at home. Or work. Many have their own company. Or their office at home. Where they can have their own order. Where it's quiet. Where it smells good. And where the surroundings are known. They feel comfortable there. They can concentrate well there. There they can learn and work well. And they can stay there all day.

24. Too strong individual stimuli: For example too bright, too loud, too fast, too warm

A light. A sound. Something you feel. Or smell. Or taste. These are all individual stimuli. For most people, such a single stimulus is not bad.


For some people, however, they are too strong. Especially if they can't do anything against it. Like a light that’s too bright. Or a sound that’s too loud. Or a black-yellow pattern. Or when other people get too close. And you don't want that. These people can't stand it.


Some things cause them headaches. With other things, they can't concentrate at all. That can be so bad, that they can't do anything at all. Then the brain just shuts down. Or the body won't take it anymore.


Certain individual stimuli are very bad for some people. These people feel much better when the individual stimuli are not there. Or not so strong.

25. Too many stimuli at once

Sometimes several individual stimuli come at once. It's not so bad for most people.


For some they are. Even if the individual things are not so bad. But all of them together are too much. In some cases even the whole body collapses. They fall down. And cannot do anything.


It's different for each person. One cannot take the bright light from the car lamps together with the street noise. For another one the wind on his skin is terrible when it's cold outside. When other things come on top of that, everything is getting worse.


Too many individual stimuli at once are simply too much for some people. They feel much better if they don’t have to face so many things at once. Or if there's nothing that's bad for them.

26. Haste and hurry: When other people have no time and are always pushing

Some people take a long time to answer a question. They think a lot. Especially when something is complicated. Or if the question is not clear.


These people need time to think. If you don't have time and keep asking questions, you make these people restless. Haste and hurry disturb these people very much. Sometimes it disturbs them so much that they don't even answer anymore. Because you don't give them time.

27. When something is not finished

Some people like it when things are finished. Then the matter is settled. And they can do the next thing. If that is not possible, then it is terrible for these people. They keep thinking about this one thing. Because they want this thing to be finished.


An example:

A boy doesn't like a specific shampoo. Because it smells terrible. He wants a different shampoo. The mother says: "Yes, I'll take care of it." He doesn't ask his mother any more either. Because he already asked her once. But he still thinks about it. He quickly wants the new shampoo. Then he can throw away the old one. He doesn't have to use it anymore. Then he's done with it. Maybe the mother will not buy the shampoo. Because she forgot. Then it's very bad for the boy.


It happens a lot in normal life. Even to adults. For example, when dealing with different authorities. Like with the Social Services Department. With the Youth Welfare Office. Or with the job centre. Everywhere you go, you have to wait for a message. Until then, the matter is not finished. Certain things have to be finished, though. Otherwise you can't go on.


If many things are not finished at the same time, then that is particularly bad for these people. This can be so bad that at some point they can't do anything.


It's important to these people that a thing is finished. Then the matter is settled. And they can do the next thing.