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Tips to handle noise sensitivity in children with autism

October 17, 2018

Children with autism are more likely to react to loud or sudden noises. Some children on the autism spectrum react more strongly.

Some children with autism many have a 'comorbid sensory processing disorder diagnosis'. This has an impact on the way they perceive the sounds around them.

So the best approach is to be aware and try to avoid loud noises and sounds to the best extent possible.

Children with autism are usually hypersensitive to some sensory stimulus. They become agitated when they are exposed to certain sounds.- Padma Shastry, Founder-Director, Samam Vidya

Padma Shastry says that another aspect of noise sensitivity is seen in children with concentration or focus issues. "When there is too much external stimulus, they get distracted and scattered."

Here are some tips parents and caregivers of children with autism can follow.

  1. It is difficult to completely avoid loud noises, so do teach your children coping skills. Accustom them to these sounds gradually so they cope better.

  2. Identify the triggers that are most disturbing. Every child responds differently to the sounds around them. Some sounds will be more challenging than the others. Parents, teachers, and caregivers can try and understand what type of noises are creating anxiety in the child. This information can help prepare for situations beforehand so that the child can be made to feel comfortable when the triggers are around. The child's behavior under different environments and sounds can be observed to understand the sound sensitivities.

  3. Once the disturbing sounds are identified, the child can be helped to adjust to them through a slow process. Let the child get used to one type of sound first and then introduce the other noise. For example if the child is scared of sirens, take time to explain why and when the sound is used.

  4. One method that is also effective is to warn the child about the noise before it happens. If the child is scared of sound made by the kitchen mixer, you can tell him or her about using it. Let the child prepare for the upcoming noise or sound.

  5. Sensitivity towards sound can also be dealt with through the use of calming tools. Since you are aiming to help the child cope with the sound for the long run, calming strategies can go a long way to do that. The children need to be taught to contain their reaction to the sounds and control their emotions. Use soothing voice to help them feel calm, hand them their favorite toy, reading a most loved story, coloring, blowing bubbles or simple chatting. This will help the children to feel less anxious and then slowly get used to the environment around them. Use of noise cutting headphones can also be made while the child is getting used to the surroundings.

  6. Make sure that the child remains safe when some noise is made around them. The child should not put himself or herself in danger due to the anxiety. To ensure the safety of the children, explaining to them about the steps or actions taken during noises is also important. You can do rehearsals of the actions that need to be taken with the child. In case the child is disturbed by sirens or fire crackers, or engine noises, you can show them videos about them or do mock drills.

  7. If the child is not able to cope easily, alternatives need to be found. Let the children sit in a quote corner if they do not wish to sit in a crowded room. Be patient and take time to understand the state of mind of the children.

Sound can be too much to bear for a small child. Adults should be responsible and try to reduce the menace of noise especially during festivals to make inclusive for all. - Sneha Kuryan Reddy, Autism parent

ALSO READ: Some tips about firecrackers and sound sensitivity in children with autism

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