Monday, September 10, 2007

If it's TOO LOUD you're....

...TOO OLD?? i beg to differ. WiseGuy has this 'problem.' Certain noises send him into hysterics. They are generally loud noises, but not ALL loud noises will do it. We can't take him to parades because of the fire, police and ambulance sirens. When they pass by and sound their sirens he screams and cries uncontrollably as i stand there with him holding my hands tight to his ears while he presses against them to hold them on even tighter. So we don't take him. He likes to WATCH fireworks....NOW. It took us until this summer to get him to watch them on TV. He can't stand to be within a mile of them. He stills states that he HATES July 4th and wishes we could all celebrate quietly. So we don't take him to fireworks displays.
There is one particular noise that sets him off more than any other. The fire alarm at school. He has ALWAYS hated the fire drill. His first day of kindergarten they thought it would be a good idea to have a fire drill....his FIRST day of KINDERGARTEN! Ok, so, i can see a bit of logic in that...getting them used to it....but that's not how it worked for my WiseGuy. The noise terrified him and he screamed for over an hour. As the months wore on he continued to scream and cry when they had the fire drill, it just took less time for him to get over it once he realized they were outside, away from the noise and that soon the alarm would get turned off. Then Tornado Awareness week came along. The fire alarm sounds but you DON'T leave the buidling. You duck and cover in the midst of the noise. i had to go pick him up from school that day as he cried and screamed so much that he made himself throw up. He did the same thing the next day....and the day after that...and the day after that. He would cry randomly at home and talk about the fire drill with a terrified look on his face while i tried to reassure him that they weren't going to do it the next day...or the next or the next....but i knew, eventually, they would do a regular ol fire drill again and it would start again. It did. And the time after that and the time after that. Yeah....they had a LOT of fire drills. Eventually, we worked out that the teacher kept a pair of wax earplugs in her desk and when the bell sounds, she is to give those to him to put in his ears as the children line up and walk outside. We told him they were there....but he didn't need to use them the next time and calmed down quickly once they left the building.
They had a fire drill at his school last week. He cried outside for a half hour and REFUSED to go back into the school. They finally convinced him to go back inside but he still wouldn't go back into his room. After another half hour he was back in the room and sat with his fingers in his ears while they resumed the school work. The teacher called me. Turns out at his school they just redid the fire alarm system in the school and it IS quite loud and VERY piercing. Since they didn't want to TERRIFY these little primary schoolers, they make an announcement over the loud speaker telling the children it is a fire drill and to line up and exit the building slowly. They never sound the alarm. So WiseGuy was confused once they went back in and started their school work and had never heard the alarm. The teacher said he sat and looked around and asked 'Where's the fire drill??' The teacher told him they already had it. He wasn't really sure what to make of that.
He didn't talk TOO much about it. i was SURE it would be the topic of discussion the rest of the night, but he barely mentioned it.
i wasn't sure what to make of THAT.
i look things up online. i research some things. i see that there might be medical causes for some such behavior/reactions. i also see that the cures are few and far between and most say that over time he will be accustomed to the sounds he hears. He will learn to tune them out...or down...just by experiencing them time and again and again.
Can i tell you that it breaks my heart? When i'm standing there holding his ears as the fire trucks pass in a parade, there are tears in my eyes as well as his. It pains me that he can't enjoy something that should be so fun. It makes me sad that he and i sit inside on the 4th of July and New Year's Eve and we can't go out with the others to see the beautiful fire works.
i've had him to audiologist. They did a hearing test on him. Guess what the result was?? He has PERFECT HEARING! No kidding, chief, i already knew that. They ran a few other tests and they basically told me it's on the neurological level and how he is PERCEIVING the sound.
The neurologist was never able to get me in for an intake appointment before we left Florida.
Many family members think that it's all in his head. They say he doesn't react as strongly when i'm not around. Or sometimes not at all. But the incident at school with the fire drill is proof positive that he DOES react when i'm not around.
i guess i'm not sure what to do, to be honest. Seek out answers to the cause? Or just work with him for a solution that we can see already is working to some extent?
i've struggled with this for a while now and am no closer to coming to a resolution.


Billie said...

Ah to be young and to be so noise sensitive. I sympathize because my ears are still very sensitive to noise (although I don't remember them being as bad as wiseguys). As wacky as it sounds perhaps invest in a good pair of the headband type noise reducers (earmuffs). They fit over the outside of the ears and look like old stereo ear phones. They reduce noise easier and if combined with regular earplugs it's even better then just earplugs. Then he can at least attend parades and such. If the look bothers him - try wearing a hooded sweatshirt with them. I still occasionally have to cover sweetpea's ears for fireworks and stuff and I have been there with the crying child too. Maybe with the headset that he can put on and take off easily he will feel more in control of the situation and learn that noise is manageable. Try taking him to a hunting supply store for a high rated pair. As for taking him to a neurologist - if you think it would help and give you peace of mind, then go ahead. It would be interesting to see if they can actually fix anything though, what could they do therapy? They say you never get used to noise - you just do permanaent damage that reduces your hearing range all together. I really don't know, good luck!

Aimee said...

Meg - I am telling you this: it is NOT !!!!!! in his head. You KNOW I know exactly what you are thinking/feeling/going through. If a doctor is telling you that it's on a neurological level and he is at the point of throwing up dut to the anxiety the noises cause, he is not making it up.

I'm not saying it's specifically SPD, but there are so many reactions to neurological problems. SPD is s spectrum, just like autism, and it is very possible that only his perception of sounds/noises is affected. The brain controls it all.

We never ever take The Boy to parades or fireworks - he doesn't even watch them on tv. He wigs out about leaf-blowers, I can only imagine what we'll face when they start up the fire drills.

The most frustrating thing about it for me is that some people don't take it seriously or they think that he can "get over it" -especially when the people saying it are the ones who are supposed to back you up. It takes therapy to get over it.

I know you didn't ask for advice, but you know how I have to put my 2 cents in :) Get a referral for a ped. neurologist, because from there you can get involved with sensory-based occupational therapy if he needs it. (It has to be sensory-based therapy, or it won't be right for him) It takes a long time to get these balls rolling, but the difference OT has made for The Boy has been astounding.

Hugs to all :)

Aimee said...

PS: sorry for the atrocious spelling errors - I am trying to type quickly and I suck!

PPS: email me or call me if you want to know more about what The Boy's therapy entails and how he got there.

Aimee said...

One more thing and then I'm done (promise!)

If you haven't found it yet, check out the SPD website at

Or you can look at They publish a great, free email newsletter that has lots of tips for talking with doctors, teachers, etc.

Even if it all comes out that SPD is not what's going on with him, these places still give you great tips and ideas for managing things.

Dan said...

I'm not sure if you'll read this comment, but, this is coming from a 20-year-old guy with Aspergers' Syndrome and has the same problem as WiseGuy's. Pretty pathetic, huh? We didn't have a fire drill on my first day of kindergarten, but the schools I attended all had old electric horns that made a loud buzzing noise. I was traumatized by those alarms, especially the ones in my high school.

Have you tried teaching your son some breathing techniques to help calm down after a fire drill or whatever? Have him lie down flat on his back, and maybe prop a slightly-heavy book on his stomach and perform abdominal breathing. He should breath in deep for three seconds, hold it in for three seconds, then exhale for five seconds. Then repeat this several more times until he begins to feel better. My parents recently taught me this. I do wish that they or my school's counselors taught me this when I was younger! It may be too late for me, but it's not too late for your son. If you start now, you and him will both be happy in the end.