Adoption Interview

Adoption Bloggers Interview Project 2012

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Auditory Sensitivities

It's interesting how when you are consciously thinking about something you notice that thing everywhere. Of course, whatever it is, it was always there in the same amounts, but you just didn't see it.  Like how a woman who desperately wants to get pregnant or who has recently had a miscarriage notices pregnant women everywhere. Or, how when we first started suspecting Hannah had Asperger's I started seeing people on the spectrum everywhere I looked.  Well, the past few weeks as I've been thinking about SPD and all the strategies we use to help Hannah overcome it's challenges I've been noticing others out in the community who probably also have SPD or at least show marked sensory sensitivities in one area or another.  For example, the other day at the mall we were walking along behind a family of 3-a mom and a dad and a son around age 10.  The mom and dad walked hand and hand together while the boy walked several feet ahead of his parents running his fingers along the walls and store windows.  He was aware of his parents though because he periodically checked over his shoulder at them and when they stopped, he stopped or at least slowed his pace.  The besides the sensory seeking of touching the wall, the other noticeable thing about this boy was that he wore sound canceling headphones-the kind you see people at racetracks wear.  He wasn't wearing your garden variety earphones in his I-pod. These headphones had one purpose and one purpose only-to block out sound. It appears they were doing their job well because the mall was quite loud and he seemed perfectly content to cruise around with his parents.  Then, today we were at McDonald's and a young woman and her parents sat down at the table next to us.  Besides obvious physical disabilities (she was in a wheelchair and had limited use of one of her hands), it was clear to me that she too had some auditory sensitivities because she spent much of the time during the meal with her fingers in her ears.  She would take a bite or a drink and then immediately place her fingers back in her ears.  She wore an almost pained look on her face and you could tell the whole experience was quite stressful for her.  While I didn't consider the restaurant terribly loud, at least not the way McDonald's can get on a Saturday at lunchtime, because I have been thinking about sensory sensitivities lately I stopped and listened for all the things I DIDN'T hear. Then, I heard it-the ice machine clunking, the lights humming, the chairs scraping, the crackle of wrappers, the hum of conversations, the occasional baby or toddler shrieking. It was all there and no doubt it was quite overwhelming to her.  Hannah was fine with the main restaurant, but I knew our time was about to come because we planned to visit the play place.  It was raining and yucky outside so the play place was packed.  As soon as we walked through the door the chaos and noise hit us.  Hannah stiffened and I knew we wouldn't be there long.  The poor thing tried to tough it out because she absolutely did not want to go back home and nap, but there was no playing going on and she was clearly uncomfortable so we left quickly.  It was interesting to me how there were two people with auditory sensitivities right next to each other, but the noises that were bothersome to them were quite different for each of them. That just illustrates how individual SPD can be and why it can be so hard for teachers, family members, and strangers to understand what our kids struggle with even if they already know someone else who has SPD. I guess that's why awareness is so important. Each new person we make aware is one more person who will hopefully be more understanding the next time they notice puzzling behavior by someone they think is inappropriate or overreactive.


Anonymous said...

So true. My son loves certain loud noises and will repeat them. The same noises cause his little friend, also on the spectrum, to cover his ears and cower. The sensory sensitivities are different for each individual.

Absolutely LOVE her outfit!!! So cute!

Patty O. said...

Really good points. Also, I would add that not only do different sounds bother kids, but they bother them in different ways. For example, Danny is very sensitive, but he doesn't stiffen up or want to leave (usually). Instead, he gets really hyper and sometimes aggressive. Often he makes lots of noises himself, in what I can only assume is an attempt to cancel out the noise. He does this all the time when the baby cries. It drives me nuts, because I too am apparently sensitive to auditory stimuli....

m said...

"I guess that's why awareness is so important."

i really love all of the social pictures you paint in this post. the kid with the earphones, girl in the restaraunt...and i love that you step back and try to imagine their perspective. the conclusion you reach, about awareness, it's great that you reached it by seeing so much, incorporating so many others. hannah...with you looking out for her, putting so much effort into understanding her...she's a lucky kiddo. hope you guys are doing well this week.