From a young age, J has often complained about certain noises. For as long as I can remember I’ve had to be careful about hand driers in public toilets – even someone else using them can send him screaming off into a corner holding his ears and it can take him some time to calm down again afterwards. He went through a phase of hating the hairdryer and the hoover at home – now he will tolerate the hoover as long as he has warning of me preparing to use it, and on the understanding I don’t use it in the same room he’s in; with the hairdryer he is now happy to let me use it on him, but again it’s only on his terms – if he wants me to use it to dry his hair, and we have to count “1,2,3” before I switch it on and if at any point during the process he asks me to turn it off I have to do so quickly, or else he’ll freak out.
Other triggers I’ve found is the noise of a busy main road – the cars etc rushing back and forth is OK for a while, but quickly overwhelms him if it’s constant; the noise of helicopters is fascinating for him for a short time, but again it will quickly get too much. Sometimes, crowds of people is too much for him to cope with – other times, he’ll happily deal with it. I’ve found a lot of it depends on how tired he is, how much he’s already dealt with over the day, and also what his focus is – when we’re in McDonalds for instance he’ll deal with the noise of people talking, the beeping of the tils and the cooking equipment, the noise of the speakers for the drive-thru and the music playing, because he is focused intently on his Happy Meal, his toy, and his balloon – but if I take him into a ‘normal’ restaurant with no distraction, for instance when we’re seated and waiting for our meal to arrive, or in that aching long gap between main course and dessert, then the noises of his surroundings become too much and he’ll hide under the table covering his ears, or his go-to option tends to be to run, and try to escape the situation.
Sometimes, I find it’s not worth getting him worked up and upset and I will avoid the situation to avoid him having a rough time. Other times, it’s an important situation, such as a birthday meal or other special event, and we’ll go and deal with it but it takes careful planning – I’m never without some Lego to keep him amused, or a book we can read together, even a small packet of crayons or pencils and a colouring book to pass the time. When sitting somewhere I’ll try to sit us in a corner if its possible, and let him sit with his back to the wall and in the corner seat – not only does this seem to help make him feel more comfortable, but it slows down his progress if he does default to the ‘run’ setting, which can buy me valuable seconds to get up and catch up with him myself if necessary.
One thing I wasn’t aware of was how common this hyper sensitivity is amongst people on the autistic spectrum. I found this article enlightening and realised that once again J aligns with ‘typical’ characteristics of ASD.
A few weeks ago, Grandad P asked J if he would like to attend Duxford air show with him, and Daddy P. Initially J wasn’t too keen on the idea – it’s a totally new concept to him, he’s never been to an air show before as I was aware that the huge crowd and loud noises would be overwhelming to him – but he’s almost five now, and Daddy P went to air shows a lot with his dad as a child, as I did with my grandad, and it’s something we both associate with happy childhood memories, something I don’t want to deny J of. So we spoke about it some more, Grandad P showed J some models of aircraft that will be at the show and explained a bit more about it, and J liked the sound of it so by the end of the afternoon he was excited at the prospect of a day out with daddy and grandad.
My concern remained the large crowd and the noise. After all, if it was billed as a fun day out the last thing I wanted was J to become overwhelmed and either have a meltdown about it or run off, both of which would be bound to put a dampener on the day. I spoke with Daddy P about the idea of some ear defenders, and he agreed that sounded like a very good plan.
I ordered these from E Bay, and they arrived within a few days of placing the order. They’re a bright, funky colour, they’re sturdy and appear to be designed with comfort and practicality in mind. I was very pleased when they arrived.
So far J has only tried them on in the house, and he said they made everything sound funny – well I suppose they would, as they minimise sound so in an already quiet environment it must be a bit disorientating having sound minimised even more. I’ve explained to him though that he’ll take them with him when he goes to the air show, and if he feels that the noise is getting a bit much, and he’s getting a bit overwhelmed, he needs to tell daddy or grandad and they can help him put his ear defenders on to help him have a bit of peace and quiet without having to leave the situation completely, because I want him to see the aircraft in flight and enjoy the show, to not miss out on the point of the air show because of the noise that comes with it. The fact that the pilots will also be wearing ear defenders is something I’m hoping will encourage him to put them on, as it won’t seem out of place to be wearing them if he sees other people wearing them too.
The air show is this weekend, so I’ll let you know next week how he gets on!
Peace & Love