Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Sound of Silence

Though we're about Autism and ADHD here at the Ninja, there are other aspects that we deal with as well. One is noise. More specifically, loud noises.

Nathan cannot endure loud noises, whether sudden or prolonged. I am not a fan of sudden noises. When either one of us hears something sudden and loud, we're both tearing our hair out as we attempt to deal with all the sensory overload.

At Nate's afterschool program, they're based out of a gym. In a big, cavernous, echo-y, noises pinging off the wall like sonar type gym. I got a call from the program director (who's also a LICSW) who said that he was overwhelmed from all the loud noises and he had had a meltdown. She wanted to know what kind of things worked for him.

During most loud noises, we're able to deal with it together. He takes my hands and pushes them against his head to block out the offending sound. Now that he's not with me during afterschool time, we needed more options.

I thought about those trendy headphones that parents have their children sport when they want to bring them to see something like Yo Gabba Gabba or Miley Cyrus (I'm SO beyond not knowing who or what is cool, so please, no comments on the music!). He took one look at them and said, "They're too big and too squishy."

Next up was earplug band, where they are attached to a plastic band and you can wear them in your ear and then stow them on your neck to use them as you please. Nathan expressed concern about the potential choking hazard they posed. I looked at my child and wondered who had possessed him.

Third up was plain old ear plugs, the kind you buy in a pinch and in a hurry when you're late for a concert. You can get them at pharmacies pretty easily. You squish them into a small shape and let them expand like a mini temperpedic mattress in your ear.  He said, "Why yes, I will try them."

I had picked him up early on Sunday, so we had an hour drive home. I figured he'd get bored of having them in his ear in about 2 minutes and I'd hear the familiar but seriously energy draining sound of the DSI.

He kept them in and he was completely quiet for the whole ride. He spent some time watching the scenery,  then mouthing words to a song or a story that he may have had in his head and then blissing out to the vibration of the car. Perhaps he was enjoying it, embracing the quiet that comes with no sound. I think he was able to hear some of his thoughts more clearly. I was so happy for him to be able to have some control over his outside elements.

He used them recently in the afterschool program and they worked like a charm. He didn't yell when he was overstimmed from the loud echo chamber effect the gym has. He dealt with it from a much calmer and more focused place. Something so simple has brought a sense of accomplishment and relief to our house. That you can take to the bank, partner.


  1. ida,stockholm,sweden9/29/10, 11:05 AM

    hi,just to say Hello! from the other side of the Globe.
    I wasn't diagnosed until a few years ago,I am not a child anymore,but strangely I've always longed to be deaf-precisely because noises,whether loud,sudden or just prolonged make me want to...well..die,basically,because they create such chaos and anxiety in my head.

    I live with my iPod earphones attatched to my ears 24/7-to drown out the noises of everyday life around me.At least I can choose the noise from the iPod-but periodically I have been wearing earplugs for days and weeks-I now have some kind of exema in my ears because of it,so...well...

    but I am so glad your son's quality of life has been improved in this way,I feel very happy for him, even thogh we've never met :)

  2. @ida: Hello to you in Stockholm! You are my first international visitor to post here. I am delighted to have you here. I thank you for your unique perspective. Sensory issues are something that people who don't have them can't comprehend them at all. Your auditory sensitivity is not lost with us!

    Nate's sensory seeking behaviors have increased lately, which I attribute to the new school. We use ear plugs and sound machines to help regulate him. :)

  3. Isn't funny how we often start with the more complicated before the simple?

    "mini temperpedic mattress in your ear" Thanks for the chuckle!


  4. @TherExtras: I am the Queen of Making Things More Complicated Than They Should Be! I'm trying to get better. LOL!

  5. I have yet to try earplugs for Jack. Though his iPod sometimes works nicely. I really should look into them. Thanks for the reminder.

  6. International Ida10/6/10, 1:43 PM

    Just to clarify - I was diagnosed with Asperger, and they say the sensory stress is to do with that.
    The horror of touching certain things,food for instance(hence anorexia,also blamed on the Asperger),noises,light,texture,people touching you - to be a young child and not be able to communicate exactly what it is that stresses you and makes you least I am old enough to tell my Mum "Please don't hug me,it hurts my skin",but for a parent to have a toddler who screams or shuts down for "no apparent reason",that must be so hard to understand and to deal with.

    You seem like a brilliant mum !

    Sorry,don't mean to spam :)

  7. @Ida: No, you're not spamming. And I understand it now, about sensory issues, but when he was little I had NO idea. These kind of things aren't in the "normal" baby books. It's trial and error until you find something that makes sense.

    And thank you for calling me a "brilliant" mum. I just try to do my best. :)