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Topics: Autism Development

Days 1 & 2 in San Fransisco: Sensory Stuff

I flew too San Fransisco three days ago, so today is the start of my second full day in the USA. The flight was quite difficult, but we landed in once piece. So far so good.

Over the last few days, I have been really sensitive to sensory stuff. I’m having lots of fun (exploring the city a little, visiting a friend) buts it’s been rather overwhelming at times.

So, in no specific order, here are some of my observations.

Intense cleaners

So far in the USA I can almost constantly smell cleaning products. The rental car smells so strong I felt sick until we had run the air conditioning a bit. We guessed it’s because the car had been cleaned and then sat for a while. Its hard to know for sure, but the smell was very noticeable. Luckily, over time the smell is dropping.

Another strong smelling place has been the corridors leading to the apartment we are staying in. It smells similar to how hospitals in the UK smell. The lift smells less strong, but the smell is different. Whereas the corridors smell of “fake freshness” the lift smells a little minty.

Out and about I have also noticed smell more. Shops (like wall-greens etc) all smell of the same “fake freshness” smell and the place where we ate dinner yesterday smelled of cooking. I don’t mind the cooking smell, but even somehow that smell seemed a bit forced or fake.

Finally, there are a few smells I like. I REALLY like the clever electric buses as when they pass you can smell the electric motors. Reminds me of scalextrix cars.

Very loud.

San Francisco also seems to be very loud. The trams are really loud, but the general background level seems high. In shops the music seems much higher and in the street cars seem louder. We did wonder if its because the cars are bigger.

Even sat in the apartment, there is the noise of traffic outside. A huge 6 lane “expressway” is a few hundred meters away and the sound from it is very noticeable. For this trip, my ear defenders have been essential

Car headlights.

Perhaps its because i’m in san Francisco, but the cars all seems to have extremely bright headlights. We wondered if its because the cars a more modern or simply more cars have higher powered headlights. Looking out of the windscreen while driving at night is very difficult.

Adverts everywhere.

Driving around San Fransisco there are adverts everywhere, they can be extremely bright or visually “loud”. I’m amazed residents do not crash. Its quite remarkable. We went into a Safeway to do a shop, and the packaging seemed to use my stronger colours. In one aisle of the supermarket a wall of “stuff” filled my entire vision and felt endless. I have been taking my glasses off lots to try and reduce the overload. It makes British supermarkets seem minimal and visually restrained.


Finally, in San Fransisco there are loads of really amazing bridges and flyovers. They are really cool. What I find interesting is that the flyovers are rarely square. They swoop, and curve. Going up them in the car at 50mph feels like a roller-coaster.

So, a few days in these are my first impressions. Hopefully, over the next few days I will get use to the sights, smells and sounds.

Published: 23 February 2015 | Categories: Permalink


  1. Katie Fraser · Feb 23, 08:58 pm ·

    It will take some getting used to and as a person with autism it must be difficult to comprehend all these different senses and smells. Hope you have a good trip and enjoy exploring these new smells, sights, crowds, and dont be worried as it can be difficult to get used to it but you will do and I am sure your friends will help you!

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