DISCLAIMER: this post is an offering of my opinions and what worked for our family. I’m not a childcare or medical professional.
I’ve decided to start off with auditory sensitivity as my first post in this series because this was the most obvious area of dysfunction for my child.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR YOUR CHILD TO HAVE DIFFICULTY PROCESSING SOUND?
Very simply, your child’s nervous system cannot integrate sound information into the brain appropriately, and therefore your child reacts inappropriately as a result. Sound sensitivity manifested itself in two ways with Luke.
1) Sudden, loud noise
This one affects kids even if they don’t struggle with sensory processing. A loud ambulance will go by, or you’ll turn on a coffee grinder and that will scare your child. Often times this can be chalked up to kids being so young, and they will often outgrow it. Luke’s reaction always went above and beyond normal startling or just a five minute cry over the sudden noise. When he was a toddler, I had to be super careful making coffee in the morning. My husband and I are fans of fresh ground coffee beans, so using the coffee grinder is a regular thing for us. There would be times where he wouldn’t calm down for a half an hour. We eventually got the hang of it, and I learned to tell him to cover his ears before turning on the coffee grinder.
2) Multi-input noises
This one came as a surprise to me. I thought we were coping with Luke’s sound sensitivity pretty well. However, if he was in a consistently loud environment where many noises would be happening (people talking, music coming over the loudspeakers, etc), he would eventually explode and have to be removed from the noisy situation. I thought I was disciplining him, but I soon realized that removing him from the situation was a relief to him.
His Kindergarten classroom was a loud and overstimulating one. He was sent to the counselor’s office his very first day of school for being an absolute disaster in class. He was super excited to tell me he got to play Angry Birds with her, but I knew we were in for a tough year. On the surface, it would seem that he was just a “bad kid who needed to be spanked,” as I hear so many people say when they see a child having a meltdown. The problem is so much more complicated than that. Luke was constantly on edge, trying to keep it all together, tuning out as much as he could. Eventually, he couldn’t take it anymore and he would explode. These issues would continue to plague him throughout his time at elementary school.
So what can you do??
As I’ve said in previous posts, your first stop will be your pediatrician, who will refer you to a pediatric occupational therapist for evaluation.
For his sound sensitivity, she recommended he use noise cancelling headphones for when the classroom environment got too loud or if we would be attending sporting events with loud noise. I can’t say enough how helpful these were.
In the classroom, we were lucky to have some very open-minded teachers who were willing to help, but eventually we were able to get him accommodations via a Section 504. In that documentation, Luke’s teachers are required to let him use headphones for schoolwork, testing, and if he was feeling the classroom get too loud.
I can’t stress enough how much easier it is to help your child if you intervene early. You absolutely should not wait if you suspect your child is struggling with sensory issues. Mal adaptive behavior and self-esteem issues will arise as a result of a child not responding appropriately to the world around them.
Does your child struggle with loud noises and noisy environments? Drop a comment below and let’s chat about it!
Also, if you’re parenting a child with sensory problems, you’re likely experiencing out of this world meltdowns. If you’d like some useful tips and some suggestions for parenting explosive children, check out my previous blog post here!