Sensory input and autism HEARING
I thought it might be useful to discuss sensory struggles in a little more depth.
I want to stress that sensory struggles for each individual with autism will be different.
It is probably understandable that I have no idea how my own experiences compare with those of ‘normal’ or NT “Neurotypical” individuals or others with autism.
I can only report my own experiences, explain them to the best of my own understanding, and let you decide for yourself if your struggles are the same or different.
I woke up this morning feeling a bit slow and did not immediately get out of bed. Instead I let myself wake slowly and soon became aware of the sounds surrounding me there in the dark.
I could hear my partner breathing deeply and hear the gurgle and rumble of his tummy , the sound of his body against the sheets as he moved and readjusted his position under the covers.
We are having a small storm here.
I could hear the rush of the wind outside in gusts that caused sounds through the branches of close by trees and the hedge near our home. I heard the sound of multiple twigs and small branches hitting the roof, the window, and the side of the house (each sound is different but sometimes they are also simultaneous). Each sound burst when the branches hit the house is sudden and slightly surprising, random and not rhythmical.
I could hear the roar of the lake a block and a half away. The sound of those rushing high waves pounding the limestone and sand is very distinctive.
I heard the water in the radiators rushing and gurgling, I could hear the clicking of the switch on the boiler thermostat turn on and off and could hear the pump initiate itself to push the water through, it hums.
I could hear the low drone of the dehumidifier in the basement.
I could hear the ticking of the clock on the dresser.
I heard our refrigerator running and then shutting off.
I heard the traffic on the highway intermittently when the wind was not gusting.
I heard the sound of the car belonging to the guy who delivers our newspaper every morning. I heard the newspaper hit the porch.
I heard the pie tin placed as a squirrel baffle on the neighbors bird feeder flexing and making tinny noises in the wind.
I heard the dog walking restlessly from room to room and the faint squish of her paw pads, the faint click of her toenails on our laminate floors, and her sighs.
I could hear faint very high ringing in my own ears, ( tinnitis, something fairly new to me and quite annoying) my breathing and for a short while the thudding of my pulse in my ears.
After a few moments I got up to start my day. It was almost 4AM and most people would say the house and even the city was dead quiet at that time.
I am completely unable to edit what I hear at any point in my day.
When I hyperfocus on a book I am reading I am not conscious of any outside noises and people must touch me to get my attention even if they are standing in front of me speaking my name or yelling across the room. I do not do that deliberately, it is something that just happens when I read.
Now think about the sounds I will hear during waking hours and when I go to any new place.
Think about when I was a small child at school and trying to sort out important sounds from those which had no meaning or significance to the learning and schoolroom.
I was surrounded by other small children, each of them snuffling, squirming, scratching, giggling, whispering, toe tapping, finger thumping, hand clapping, playing with pencils, paper, erasers, crayons, scissors, and the sound of the teacher’s voice, the sound of 30 pairs of little feet on the floor, the sound of chalk on the blackboard, turning pages, school bells, the intercom announcements, sounds of chairs being pulled or pushed into place, walking rustling , calling, talking, whispering others as they all passed through the hallways to the buses with motors running just outside, the sounds of traffic, passing airplanes, mowing or snow plowing, and I could list so much more. How is that little autistic kid in the class NOT going to get into trouble for “not paying attention”… and those are just the sounds.
I have learned to sort significant sounds from non significant ones as I have gotten older, but what seems to have been fairly easy for most people has taken me a lifetime, and new environments all call for adjustments and new learning in the new situations.
How difficult is it for an autistic child without the advantages of experience or insight? How difficult is it for an autistic adult in workplace environments?
How difficult is it for an elderly autistic person newly placed in a nursing care or hospital environment?
More soon on other sensory processing issues.
What happens when we have struggles not just with hearing but also with other sensory input?
( hint, most of us have multiple sensory struggles)