When A Pen Isn’t Just A Pen


Sensory disorders like SPD, Misophonia, Autism (and even disorders like Aspergers) make every day activities a struggle. To some, it can even become excruciating. Small differences that would go unnoticed by many (or, as some call it, neurotypicals), are profound challenges.

“I am not afraid of the pen, or the scaffold, or the sword. I will tell the truth wherever I please.”
— Mother Jones

I have a quick confession. When the stylus pen for tablets became popularized I was not excited. I saw their merit — a pen that could easily be used for an e-device, great. But, for me, they were a nightmare. The weight of the pen in my hand was too clunky, too weird. Many stylus pens were too small and short and others too thick. No matter which I tried it was too difficult for me to use. I attribute this to sensory preferences. Those with SPD are familiar with this concept. Sometimes we cannot use things a different way. If our pen runs out of ink it is hard to switch to another brand. If our favourite pen is no longer stocked, we may panic. We are the people that will run store to store begging for the last bit of stock before the pen goes extinct. Maybe we’re not all that dramatic, but I’ve done it. I have hoarded office supplies in the past for this exact reason. Pens, pencils, markers, crayons – when you find the one, you stick to it. But, isn’t a pen just a pen? Well, for us, it may not be. A pen can be many things to many different sensory persons. Actually, that pen can be many different things to just one sensory person in particular, like me.

When I am nervous, troubled, or at the brink of my sensory accumulation, I may chew on a pen. The soft plastic has time and time again provided a sensory-chew device in a pinch. Nervously I have destroyed many pens. Unfortunately, the pens of others have been wielded against me like a sword. Since I do not habituate to many repetitive sounds, I have often been attacked by the quick clicking that comes from excessive pen clickers. This behaviour has led to many meltdowns and even a couple of failed tests. I nearly failed an exam due to it before. Click. Click. Click. Each stroke leaving little wounds, a dagger pressed deep in my sensory system.

It’s not easy explaining this to others. To many, understandably, a pen is just a pen. Though, some may have their own uses for this tool. Pens not only write stories, letters, and sign documents, they are also often clicked out of anxieties. I know, deep inside, that pens aren’t my enemy. This isn’t a war against stationary and office supplies. It is a peering look into the complexities of a sensory brain. Autistics, SPD sufferers, and Misophones alike have trouble dealing with change. We are often battling the world around us, each and every day. Like many every day tools, a pen is more than a pen to us.