Noise can hit us each in different ways.
Certain music might sound majestic to some but a cacophony to others.
And some noises, like a low hum, can be totally ignored by some, and seem an annoyance, or worse, for others.
That is the nature of noise sensitivity or ‘auditory sensitivity’.
It is also often accompanied by other sensory sensitivities, like feeling the touch of things differently. Sensory sensitivities mean that these children with autism process senses differently.
Autistic Children & Auditory Sensitivity
Some common questions people ask related to this are;
Do people with autism have sensitivity to noise?
How do autistics deal with noise sensitivity?
What is the most common sensory sensitivity for autism?
What is noise sensitivity a symptom of?
Are autistic people sensitive to noises?
Are autistic kids sensitive to noise?
Are people with autism more sensitive to sound?
Are Aspergers sensitive to sound?
Are autistic adults sensitive to noise?
What are the signs of high functioning autism in adults?
Are Aspergers sensitive to noise?
What causes over sensitivity?
Is over sensitivity a mental disorder?
How do I fix over sensitivity?
So lets look at these;
Autism Spectrum Disorder and Sound Sensitivity
We all hear in different ways.
And for people with an Autism spectrum disorder, sound sensitivity mean that certain noises can be irritating, or even painful, to the point of distraction; of being unable to focus or concentrate on anything else.
Auditory sensitivity like this can be a show-stopper on a day-to-day basis.
Children with autism respond physiologically differently to neuro-typical people and typically developing children.
Genuine Pain With Sensory Overload
The noise sensitivity in autistic children is such that they have stronger autonomic reactions than neuro-typical and ‘normally’ developing children.
The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is part of the peripheral nervous system, and is responsible for the control of vital functions such as heart beat, breathing and digestion. It is also involved in the acute stress response where it works with the endocrine system to prepare the body to fight or flight.SimplePsychology.org
Developmental Disorders and Sensory Sensitivities
So when autistic children and adults hear loud noises, certain sounds and other auditory stimuli from everyday life, when they experience sound sensitivity, there is a stress response, a kind of panic, akin to the fight or flight response, firing the autonomic nervous system; they have an emotional reaction.
So sound sensitivity causes people with autism spectrum disorders whether adult or children, to experience pain and stress, on hearing certain loud noises, and often, not even noises that would be considered loud noises by others.
This is what they feel when they experience sensory overload.
Sensory Overload Causes Other Difficulties
This is why you might see a child with an autism spectrum disorder bolt from sudden noises or certain sounds.
Or a child with sensory sensitivities might completely ignore sounds, social stimuli in everyday activities, or certain frequencies due to their sensory issues or hypersensitive hearing.
They may also have trouble determining the direction of the sound or the source.
A child with autism may be easily distracted due to certain frequencies or a new noise such as a vacuum cleaner. In fact a vacuum cleaner offers a unique noise pattern, in that it has an almost constant hum, yet it changes pitch slightly due to the Doppler effect and contact changes as it is moved around, which is why it can be an issue for ASD children with autism.
Dangers With Sensory Sensitivities and Children with Autism
Recent research has raised the question of safety for this reason, for children with noise sensitivities and an autism spectrum disorder.
Research shows that due to sound sensitivities, 43% to 52% of children with autism, compared to typically developing children, were put at risk as a result of their response to certain sounds and their sound sensitivity. Noise sensitivities provoked some autistic children to hurt themselves or others, or led to accidental injuries
Because a physical pain or stress is felt as a result of the auditory stimuli, whether general environmental sounds or sudden new noises, autistic children respond to avoid that auditory stimuli, whether by running away or by covering their ears with their hands, to try to stop their inner ear perceiving the sound and hear the noise.
So this is how children with autism spectrum disorder can be at risk due to their sensory sensitivities and sound sensitivity in everyday life.
Imagine children with autism and with sound sensitivity on the road side and a car misfires with a bang. They might bolt and run away from the sound, which might be into the road and into traffic.
Or think of children with autism spectrum disorders, a sensory processing disorder and noise sensitivities in the classroom with scissors, when they hear a sudden new sensory stimuli and drop or throw the scissors.
Or that individuals with autism spectrum disorders might fall or trip due to certain stimuli, whether sensory or auditory stimuli. Other children – typically developing children, without the sensory sensitivities or sound sensitivity – might respond in a completely different way.
Kids with Autism can increase autism awareness using these eye-catching headphone decals to announce to others around them that they are autistic, to please “give me time”, and to be patient and kind.
How do I ‘fix’ noise sensitivities or sensory sensitivities?
Often as a result of sensory overload, too much sensory information or too many different sounds , a child might exhibit repetitive behaviors to try to calm the overload and to de-stimulate.
There have been many theories and practical solutions offered, ever since autism spectrum disorders were first outlined by Dr Leo Kanner in 1943, from sensory integration therapy, noise cancelling headphones, cognitive behavior therapy, sensory overload management, functional magnetic resonance imaging study, auditory discrimination, help from occupational therapists, diagnostic and statistical manual methods, help with speech language pathologists, use of ear defenders or ear plugs or other items to plug the ears, anxiety management as well as other proposals and use of additional resources.
One singular problem with studying ASD and autism spectrum disorders is that one child with autism may respond in a certain way, while another child with autism responds differently. The same applies for adults with autism spectrum disorders.
Occupational therapists can help autistic children learn how to deal with sensory information more appropriately and how to respond.
Similarly, Cognitive behavior therapy is about giving autistic children specific methods, actions and rules to respond to sensory information. For example, if sensory information and sounds seems overwhelming, to respond by focusing on slow breathing.
Sensory integration therapy is a fascinating subject that has some support but on some levels has been diminished in respect. The current official view from major medical and scientific bodies is that auditory integration therapy has no known proof and that more evidence is needed.
Developmental Disorders & Autism Improvement
One remarkable exception is The Key Clinic in Berkshire, England, which has developed bespoke intellectual disability integration with both auditory therapy and kinaesthetic processing therapy, which has anecdotally achieved outstanding results.
They help children with autism, sensory sensitivities or a sensory processing disorder to integrate the separate parts of their brain that maybe have stopped developing since a certain age. Parents of many a child with sensory sensitivity and auditory sensitivity have reported sizable improvements in their child’s developmental disorders and social improvement.
As a parent, all they want to see is their child with autism and sensory problems and sensory issues as happy and socially integrated as possible.
Noise Canceling Headphones
One example of a very popular tool for sensory sensitivities, auditory sensitivities, developmental disorders and to stop sensory overload for children with autism spectrum disorders, is noise cancelling headphones.
These are like standard headphones that play music or sounds from a mobile phone for example, but in addition, have noise cancelling or reducing technology within them.
This ‘listens’ to the general environmental sounds and plays the negative version of those positive general environmental sounds to cancel it out, to help reduce anxiety.
This can help children with autism to cut out sensory overload and process sensory information in a simpler way, having cut out many of the interrupting or distracting sounds.
This is why noise cancelling headphones are better that simple ear defenders, for children and adults.
Autism Headphones for Your Child with Autism
With your noise canceling headphones you can increase autism awareness in other people around autistic children by using Autism Headphones decals which you can learn more about here.
These are eye catching announcements that ASD children need more time to respond, and please be kind!
In this way autistic children can enjoy wearing cool and colourful headphones that announce to others that they process sensory information differently.
Learn more about Autism Headphones decals here.