Living With Autism And Noise Sensitivity
Brie testing out her new dB Blockers
High and intense noises can have a severe impact on people living with Autism. Autistic children are very sensitive to specific sounds and pitches that others are not affected by. The downside to sound sensitivity is that noise quickly becomes painful and can even trigger a panic attack. When a person hears multiple sounds simultaneously, it becomes almost impossible to pay attention to the task at hand. Separating and prioritizing sounds will drain a persons energy, and the constant assault of noise may cause a persons anxiety level to escalate.
What Do We Know
Studies say from 30 percent to more than 90 percent of people with autism either ignore or overreact to ordinary sights, sounds, smells or other sensations.5-9 Among children who took part in the Simons Simplex Collection autism research project, about 68 percent had unusual sensory interests and 65 percent were sensitive to noise.10
Generally speaking, researchers have had trouble being much more specific. After all, no one single type of sensory problem is “consistently associated with ASD.”11
A decade ago, two prominent autism researchers, Sally J. Rogers and Sally Ozonoff, reviewed 75 research papers published on the subject since 1960. They found more evidence that children with autism underreact to their senses, but said they could not draw firm conclusions. That’s because the studies they reviewed used different methods, tested different things, and relied on different scientific standards over the decades. In the last decade, other studies have sought to advance our understanding of what Drs. Rogers and Ozonoff called “sensory dysfunction.”6
Corrupted Motor Priors In Asd
Using a new statistical platform for behavioral analyses a new study has begun the experimental estimation of the idiosyncratic patterns of movement variability unique to each person. By itself a single fluctuation in our motions is not informative. However, when looked at as stochastic processes, the continuous flow of our natural behaviors reveal the family of probability distributions best describing the degrees of predictability and reliability in the behavioral variability of each person. Applying the SPBA, one can see that the statistical properties of our behavior undergo maturation. Typically developing children begin to gain reliable and predictable re-afferent feedback of limb micro-movements around 4 years of age. By college age, young graduates manifest even more predictable and reliable patterns with a broader bandwidth of values . However, none of the 34 subjects with ASD independent of verbal proficiency and gendershowed predictive micro-movements. Rather their fluctuations were random and memoryless. The speed-dependent variability from prior trials was not more predictive of future trials than was the variability from a current trial. In this sense the movement variability from experiencing the here and now seemed to be the only useful kinesthetic information to them. Moreover, the bandwidth of speed values was very narrow in ASD, despite their ability to reach the goals of the task.
Also Check: How To Prevent Autism Book
Dealing With Noise Sensitivity
It is common for kids with ASD to become scared of noise and other sensory stimuli. People with autism have trouble expressing their fears, so it is important to watch for signs of distress, such as clinging, irritation, yelling and crying, to determine what is triggering fear. Kids with ASD may also go to extremes to avoid a noisy or fearful situation, like school or birthday parties, and parents often feel that avoiding disturbing situations is a way to protect their children. While avoidance is sometimes necessary, it does not allow children to learn how to cope with their fear.
Helping your child learn to manage their fear will help reduce anxiety and prepare him for unpredictable circumstances. Research has found that gradual exposure coupled with coping strategies can be an effective way to overcome fear. Start by encouraging your child to breathe deeply, as slow breathing helps to reduce the bodys physical response to stress. Positive mantras can also stifle anxiety and provide reassurance.
The aid of an occupational therapist can be beneficial in helping your child overcome their fears, especially in extreme situations. For help finding a therapist, see www.autismva.org. If your child is nervous about starting school or moving to a new school, , for tips on how to prepare for the change.
Being Expected To Do Something Without Being Told
Sometimes people with Autism can feel overwhelmed when you think they should be able to know what to do without being told. It can be hard for them to respond to expectations and demands that theyre not given explicit instructions about. They need to be given plenty of information about any changes in expectations there may be. It’s important to provide them with this information in a clear way because they often have issues reading body language or understanding the context by subtle cues.
Don’t Miss: Can You Get Disability For Autism
A Note On Neurodivergent People
There is no cure for autism, and many people in the autistic community dont feel the need for one. Instead, they recognize autism as a neurotype rather than a disability or condition that needs to be cured.
Neurodivergent folks, including autistic people, may communicate in diverse ways. For instance, avoiding eye contact and fidgeting may help them concentrate better or feel more comfortable in conversation and doesnt always mean disinterest.
Neurodivergent individuals may also respond to sensory stimuli differently than neurotypical people. These responses may include stimming, which is usually out of the autistic persons control.
Nonautistic individuals might engage in stimming to relieve anxiety or preoccupy themselves. Yet neurotypical folks tend to be more aware of their stimming and engage in it less frequently. Examples of neurotypical stimming may include:
- biting your nails
- jiggling your leg when youre anxious
Autistic folks, on the other hand, use stimming to cope with the world around them. Self-soothing through stimming may work to minimize larger responses, such as autism meltdowns.
Research from 2013 describes rocking as a common form of stimming among autistic people. Other examples of neurodivergent stimming may include:
- humming, singing, or listening to a song on repeat
- hand-waving or flapping
People With Autism Might Have Sensitivities To:
- Awareness of body position and movement
- Awareness of internal body cues and sensations
Autistic people can experience both hypersensitivity and hyposensitivity to a wide range of stimuli. Most people have a combination of both.
Many autistic people experience hypersensitivity to bright lights or certain light wavelengths . Certain sounds, smells, textures and tastes can also be overwhelming. This can result in sensory avoidance trying to get away from stimuli that most people can easily tune out. Sensory avoidance can look like pulling away from physical touch, covering the ears to avoid loud or unpredictable sounds, or avoiding certain kinds of clothing.
Hyposensitivity is also common. This can look like a constant need for movement difficulty recognizing sensations like hunger, illness or pain or attraction to loud noises, bright lights and vibrant colors. People who are hyposensitive may engage in sensory seekingto get more sensory input from the environment. For example, people with autism may stimulate their senses by making loud noises, touching people or objects, or rocking back and forth.
You May Like: What Do Autistic Babies Look Like
Review Articlea Review Of Decreased Sound Tolerance In Autism: Definitions Phenomenology And Potential Mechanisms
DST in autism is a combination of hyperacusis, misophonia, and phonophobia.
Hyperacusis is thought to result from excessive gain in the central auditory system.
Misophonia may be caused by the attribution of excess salience to certain sounds.
Phonophobia is a specific phobia of sound maintained by impaired fear extinction.
Challenges Families Face In Overcoming Autism Symptoms
Often, as a family member of someone with autism, you can feel helpless in terms of assisting your loved one overcome the challenges theyre facing.
When your loved one is on the autism spectrum, hell likely face issues, challenges and problems on a daily basis. Issues that can regularly occur include:
- Facing additional conditions, such as gastrointestinal problems or epilepsy
- Finding it difficult to socialize with others
- Issues relating to sound, feel, touch and taste
- Having difficulties communicating with people
- Feeling generally frustrated at having to deal with peoples prejudice and ignorance about their condition
- Feeling ignored as a result of their autism
If youre caring for someone who is autistic, you may also be facing your own issues and problems, such as:
- Inability to cope at times
- Your own health issues
This is why its so incredibly important that both autistic people, their loved ones and caregivers find services, treatments and therapies that will provide assistance.
Also Check: Do We All Have Autistic Tendencies
Restricted Or Repetitive Behaviors Or Interests
People with ASD have behaviors or interests that can seem unusual. These behaviors or interests set ASD apart from conditions defined by only problems with social communication and interaction.
Examples of restricted or repetitive interests and behaviors related to ASD can include:
- Lines up toys or other objects and gets upset when order is changed
- Repeats words or phrases over and over
- Plays with toys the same way every time
- Is focused on parts of objects
- Gets upset by minor changes
- Has obsessive interests
Recommended Reading: Levels Of Functioning Autism
Alternate Noisy And Quiet
I discovered that my sons tolerance for noise increased the most when I scheduled frequent quiet breaks. After a morning out doing errands, we enjoyed a quiet lunch at home. After a playgroup with 7 other children, we made time to snuggle on the sofa. When we felt brave enough to visit a large theme park, we booked a hotel inside the park so that we could retreat as often as necessary. We always take a break before the noise upsets him, so that he will want to return for more fun after resting.
Recommended Reading: Ian Ritch Girlfriend
Read Also: Could Autism Be An Autoimmune Disorder
How To Get Children With Autism To Lower Their Voice
28 November, 2018
Speaking in an abnormal tone, pitch or rhythm is among the symptoms that indicate a child has an autism spectrum disorder, notes Helpguide.org. Children with autism who talk loudly often dont know theyre doing so, while others dont understand why talking in a loud voice isnt always socially appropriate. They also may not understand how changing the volume of their voice communicates different messages.
Explain to your child that using a loud voice is not appropriate for certain situations. She might not realize her behavior isnt proper. For instance, it may not occur to her that its not OK to talk out loud in church, at the movies or in the library. She needs you to tell her.
Teach your child to control the volume of his voice. Show him examples by demonstrating what volume of voice he should use when talking to you, to his teachers in the classroom or to his friends out on the playground.
Tell your child that when she is standing or sitting close to another person, she doesnt have to talk loud for that person to hear what shes saying. Come up with a signal between the two of you to let her know shes talking too loudly and needs to lower the volume of her voice.
Ask your child to use his softer voice indoors and save his louder voice for when he is playing outdoors. Point out that you are using your indoor voice while you are talking to him.
Will My Child Get Overwhelmed By The Noise In Public School
People with autism spectrum disorders often struggle with sensory stimulation and may be particularly sensitive to noise. While no single type of sensory problem is consistently connected with ASD, audiologist have found that people on the autism spectrum may hear sounds differently than the general population. They are commonly hypersensitive to sound, hyposensitive to sound, or a combination of the two.
Someone who is hyposensitive may not recognize certain pitches, might only hear in one ear and may desire loud places.
A person who is hypersensitive may hear sounds that are distorted or exaggerated, they may be uniquely sensitive to sounds at a distance, or may be easily distracted by background noise.
The National Autistic Society posted this video on sensory sensitivity, while it does not accurately illustrate all sensory issues, it does provide some insight as to how overwhelming sensory stimulation struggles can be:
Don’t Miss: What Is A Simple Definition Of Autism
Sound Sensitivity And Autism
Whats happening, and what you can do to help
Hyperacusis , is an increased sensitivity to sound that is commonly found among people with autism. This means that certain noises, such as classroom bells, the radio or the TV, may be uncomfortable for your child to hear. When a sound is distressing to a child, he or she may show discomfort by covering their ears, trying to turn off the source of the sound or leaving the noisy environment.
Trying to understand the connection between autism and hyperacusis, a group of scientists in France proposed that children on the autism spectrum may be more sensitive to the loudness of sound they thought that children with autism may perceive sounds as louder than other children do.
Each child listened to a series of sounds at different intensities which they rated on a scale from low to too loud. The ratings of each group were than analyzed by the scientists to reveal the following results:
The children with autism rated sounds that were above 40 decibels as being significantly louder than the children in the other group. For reference, a normal conversation is about 50 decibels and a library voice whisper is around 30 decibels. This suggested that children with autism may have a reduced range of comfortable volume, meaning that sounds start being uncomfortable at a lower volume than for other children. So, it may be that children on the autism spectrum actually perceive noise to be louder than their peers.
Helping Autistic Children And Teenagers With Sensory Sensitivities
What you do to help your autistic child with sensory sensitivities depends on how your child reacts to sensory information.
If your child is easily overwhelmed by sensory information, you could try the following:
- Have a quiet space your child can go to when they feel overwhelmed.
- Give your child extra time to take in what youre saying.
- Introduce your child to new places at quiet times, gradually increasing the amount of time they spend there in later visits.
- Let your child try ear plugs or noise-cancelling headphones to help with sound sensitivities.
Its also a good idea to speak with people ahead of time about your childs needs if youre going somewhere people might be able to adjust a few things to make it easier. For example, if youre making a playdate for your child, you could ask for it to be in a place thats familiar to your child. You could look out for cinemas that have sensory friendly movie screenings.
If your child needs more stimulation from the environment, you could try these suggestions:
- Arrange for extra playtime outside.
- Give your child toys that are extra-stimulating, like playdough or a squishy ball.
- Have a certain time of the day to listen to music or bounce on the trampoline.
- Speak loudly in an exaggerated way if your child tends to ignore sounds.
Also Check: How To Screen For Autism
What Do We Know About Noise Sensitivity In Autism
Donald was “perfectly petrified of the vacuum cleaner.” So was Elaine, who would not venture near the closet where her familys vacuum was stored. Richard, Barbara and Virginia, on the other hand, ignored sound to the point that others wondered if they were deaf.1
These were autisms first children,2 described in the landmark 1943 article by Leo Kanner that gave a name and description to a disorder that now affects 1 in 68 American children.3 Dr. Kanner, an American psychiatrist, created a new diagnosis for these children, some of whom had been assumed to have intellectual disability.
Among other things, most of the children he studied shared an unusual relationship to sound either ignoring or fearing it. Today, under- or over- reacting to ones own senses is a symptom of autism spectrum disorder , according to the American psychiatric diagnostic manual published in 2013.4 These senses include sight, touch, smell, movement and taste, but for many people, the stereotypical image of autism involves the sense of hearing. It’s the image of a child with his hands covering his ears, blocking out noise. In fact, that’s what Elaine did when she heard the rumble of the vacuum cleaner. Today she would be called hyper-responsive to noise. Richard, Barbara and Virginia would be described as hypo-responsive, because they barely acknowledged many sounds.
Sensing Through Movementnot All Variability Is Created Equal
What do we mean by noise? Noise might be defined as any kind of sensed phenomenon or change that cannot be interpreted as a signal . Thus, the idea of noise instantly craves a discussion of how we interpret or make sense of the stochastic world that impinges on all our afferent nerves at any point in time aka the riddle of sense perception that has haunted natural philosophers since antiquity. How can we, with a body in constant motion, get to a coherent and stable perception of anything? The scientific and philosophical world is starting to wake up to the idea that this riddle must be solved through understanding the dynamics of predictive anticipation not only of own body position and motion in time, but also the contents of what is perceived . But how do we do this if our movements are always inherently variableeven when trying to reproduce the same movement? .
What have often been overlooked are the processes and relevance of continuously accumulating evidence from the fluctuations in our motions. By gaining a probabilistic expectation about the variability itself, the system can acquire predictable and reliable motor priors. Rather than merely adding noise , sensory-motor variability can serve as actively sampled and sharpened informative signals and as an aid in adaptively reshaping old priors.
Recommended Reading: Is April 2nd Autism Awareness Day