Book Club: Sensing Too Much

Andrew Sullivan —  Jun 9 2014 @ 8:52pm

A reader emailed prior to Maria’s intro today:

Afternoon! I am finding On Looking fascinating in so many ways! Two of my children werehorowitz-onlooking diagnosed with sensory processing disorder (along with Aspergers) and it is difficult for them not to notice everything. Hypersensitive to noise means they hear things that most of us have learned to filter out – same goes for light, touch, smell and taste. Like most people with SPD, their diagnosis came after years of extremely picky eating, complaints about scratchy clothing seams and tags and silky linings in coats, refusing to see movies at the theater and, in our case, having one of them bolt and get lost at an amusement park when he sensed the fireworks were about to start (even though we were on our way out of the park).

Living with my boys means that the rest of us are forced to take note of what we hadn’t. Often we realize just how much we are missing with our so-called properly functioning sensory system. True, they often find themselves with what can only be described as a traffic jam of sensory input in their brains (and that often leads to scenes that are not pretty), but they also notice first when the spring peeper frogs are awake, that the water system needs salt, that Daddy is home (in a Prius), and that the night-light bulbs are about to burn out.

bookclub-beagle-trWe prefer the word “challenge” rather than “disorder” when talking about their Aspergers and sensory issues because while it can be overwhelming at times and even debilitating, it is who they are. And we kid that they can use their powers for good rather than evil! Their powers of sensory observation sometimes astound and add layers to the ordinary that would otherwise have been totally missed. Coupled with what I have read so far in On Looking, I can’t see any journey being ordinary again.

The Dish has covered sensory processing disorders before – here and here. By the way, a reminder of Maria’s appeal to readers earlier today:

Perhaps the greatest gift of a book club is that we get to share our private realities around a common point of interest – the book – and in the process enrich the collective experience. With that in mind, what is one facet of your day or aspect of your usual daily routine – your apartment, your commute, your dog walk route – that On Looking helped you see with new eyes?

Email your personal observations – and photos when relevant – to and we’ll pick the most interesting ones to post. And we’ll be discussing On Looking for up to the whole month of June, so you still have plenty of time to buy the book and join the conversation.