Some Sounds Are Better Than Others

Jim and Charlie out on an early evening bike ride It was late afternoon and Charlie and I had just come back from a walk yesterday. He got into the car and I told him I needed ten minutes to do a few things. Charlie indicated he was ok with this and climbed into the white car, which was parked in our driveway. The front door was wide open so I could check on him from time to time.

And then I heard vroom, vroom, vroooOOOOOMMMmm, really really loud.

I ran to the door and saw a big burgundy motorcycle with its leather-clad driver revving the engine while talking on his cell phone. I saw Charlie head down and hands clasped over his ears.

I was sorely tempted to tell Mr. Motorcycle Rider to turn off his engine which he did, presumably because he needed to attend to the conversation on his phone. Charlie sat up but still kept his hands over his ears. I hurried around to finish what I was doing and asked myself, should I ask Mr. Motorcycle Rider to please move down the street before revving up his engine again, my autistic son was sitting right there in our car and he's incredibly sensitive to sound?. It did occur to me that he had parked in front of our house because the space was open: We sometimes park one of our cars there, but prefer to keep them in the driveway, especially if Charlie is going to sit and wait for a period of time.

And then I heard vrooooOOOOOOooooooooommmmmmmmmrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, saw Charlie cowering in the back seat, and gone was the motorcycle and its rider.

I hurried into the car and we drove off; Charlie seemed ok as we went here and there. Once home, he asked for a walk. After five minutes, he started crying in loud gulps and moans. I walked a few paces behind him and thought, this is the lag—Charlie having, perhaps, a delayed reaction to that motorcycle making so much noise in front of his own house; in a space that Charlie regards as his domain.

The crying lasted for all of our walk. Once home, knowing that Charlie being hot (on a day with a high of 92 degrees here in New Jersey, warmer than California or Athens; global warming, you said it) was not helping things, I started cutting up a watermelon. Charlie stood and watched and then, wordlessly (but no longer crying), picked up the bowl and ate. Jim had come home by this point and put on his shorts and got out the bikes and away he and Charlie went.

Charlie has still been wearing the blue fleece jacket he's worn everyday of the fall and winter. It always takes him some time to transition to different seasons and too much explaining can just make things worse. He must have been extra over-heated yesterday, though, especially after a vigorous bike ride. He wanted to go out in the white car again and Jim and I both said a couple of uh-hmm's, and Charlie helped himself to some water and a soda from Jim's bag. He still had on his jacket and shoes; we still uh-hmm'd. I went down to the basement to start a load of laundry.

When I returned, Charlie had taken off his coat and was placing his socks beside his shoes. He went to stand near the piano, elbows pointing up as his hands were pressed over his ears. Then he asked to use the computer.

He's discovered the joys of listening to thirty-second samples of songs from albums via Amazon. We've been looking up CDs that he had a longish time ago. The samples are just long enough for Charlie to get a good taste of the song, but not so long that he gets over-stimulated by music that brings back (as music does for all of us, no?) memories, feelings, images, thoughts. Charlie also used to get very over-focused on the CDs (shiny circles) and cassette tapes (pulling out the tape was too tempting and too much fun, until he realized that he couldn't hear the music anymore). 

And he also tends to get over-focused on going, going, going; on going out to look around and then he's tired and would be better off sitting on the old, beat-up, very comfortable old blue couch. Yesterday, he needed, indeed, to be reminded, it's fine just to stay home.

But Jim and I have already agreed, much as we'd like Charlie to learn how to deal with the unexpected—he is growing up—with things that he and we and no one can control, we don't really need to have more Motorcycle Guys running their engines right in front of our, of Charlie's, house and own home.

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Comments
6 Responses to “Some Sounds Are Better Than Others”
  1. The sensory stuff is a huge issue in our family. Nat used to cover his ears whenever he saw and ambulance or a firetruck, even if they were simply driving along the street quietly! Now he does not do that. I don’t know exactly when that happened, but it happened. Everything sneaks up on me these days…

  2. Jill says:

    If you haven’t already read it, I highly recommend “Parallel Play: Growing up with Undiagnosed Asperger’s” by Tim Page. As a child, music was strongly attractive to Page, who grew up to be a Pulitzer Prize-winning music critic. Diagnosed with Asperger’s when he was forty, Page associates certain memorable events in bis life and even entire days, with particular songs, most of them so-called “classical” but also rock, pop, jazz and other genres.
    The writing is beautiful and evocative and the author is able to describe his bewildered sense of feeling different and apart from his friends and family.
    It’s a gorgeous book and from what you write about Charlie, it seems like he has the same visceral reaction to music and sounds in general.
    While (almost) nobody likes having a giant motorcycle revving in front of their house, it’s a sad fact of life in our crowded state that space is at a premium and Mr. Motorcycle Guy has every right to park in front of your house. I doubt he knew that Charlie was there, flinching and covering his ears. Maybe if he had known he would have moved on.
    We used to live in an apartment in a seaside community rife with Victorian dwellings planted cheek to jowl with few driveways in which to park. My then-fiancee (now my hubby) and I used to park in front of a neighboring house when the spaces in front of our apartment were filled. The woman who lived in the neighboring house once confronted us, arms akimbo in righteous indignation, and informed us that we, as mere RENTERS, had no right to park in front of the house that she OWNED.
    Sadly for her, we were well-informed law students who were able to recite the municipal code regarding parking.
    If she had been nice about it we might have tried to accommodate her by parking elsewhere, but in the summer at the Shore there sometimes is no elsewhere, as Gertrude Stein might have said.
    That’s just a little parking story. Check out the book if you haven’t read it.

  3. Synesthesia says:

    Urg. I know how the sound sensitivity thing goes. Sirens drive me up a tree, but what is worse is GUM POPPING.
    And everywhere I go someone is bond to be snap crackle popping that gum as loudly as possible, making me jump out of my skin and want to growl at them to stop that.
    THough usually I do not.
    i should.
    That sound goes all through me. My lovely sound blocking ear canal phones broke and I had to wait ages for them to be replaced which meant not being able to block out all of the irritating sounds on my daily commute.

  4. You never know what sounds pop up to have an effect on our kiddos. I give you credit for handling it so well!

  5. autismvox says:

    I hadn’t even thought of associating the vroom sounds with Charlie, um, taking the wheel—not something he’s going to be able to do, ahem. If he did, big heart attack here!

  6. Julia says:

    I went with my sons on a field trip last week that included a stop at a mechanics’ garage. The sounds of the lift at the very beginning of the little “tour” were enough to overload my younger son, and additional noises just added to the problem. I spent a chunk of the time holding him, cradled in my arms with some squeezing action that seemed to help. Then I’d set him down until the next noise, and we’d repeat the exercise. (I had a number of muscles very well-exercised by the end of it all!)
    Older brother’s teacher has had older brother since older brother was almost a year younger than younger brother is now. Older brother was a lot more sound-sensitive then than he is now, and I think the teacher and aides had gotten used to older brother having the worst sound sensitivity around, and now younger brother struggles a lot more with it. (This is their first school year in the same school. It’s also the first year their sister has been mainstreamed. It’s been an interesting year so far, mostly in good ways.)
    Oh, and our next door neighbor has a motorcycle. 😛

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Some Sounds Are Better Than Others

Jim and Charlie out on an early evening bike ride It was late afternoon and Charlie and I had just come back from a walk yesterday. He got into the car and I told him I needed ten minutes to do a few things. Charlie indicated he was ok with this and climbed into the white car, which was parked in our driveway. The front door was wide open so I could check on him from time to time.

And then I heard vroom, vroom, vroooOOOOOMMMmm, really really loud.

I ran to the door and saw a big burgundy motorcycle with its leather-clad driver revving the engine while talking on his cell phone. I saw Charlie head down and hands clasped over his ears.

I was sorely tempted to tell Mr. Motorcycle Rider to turn off his engine which he did, presumably because he needed to attend to the conversation on his phone. Charlie sat up but still kept his hands over his ears. I hurried around to finish what I was doing and asked myself, should I ask Mr. Motorcycle Rider to please move down the street before revving up his engine again, my autistic son was sitting right there in our car and he's incredibly sensitive to sound?. It did occur to me that he had parked in front of our house because the space was open: We sometimes park one of our cars there, but prefer to keep them in the driveway, especially if Charlie is going to sit and wait for a period of time.

And then I heard vrooooOOOOOOooooooooommmmmmmmmrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, saw Charlie cowering in the back seat, and gone was the motorcycle and its rider.

I hurried into the car and we drove off; Charlie seemed ok as we went here and there. Once home, he asked for a walk. After five minutes, he started crying in loud gulps and moans. I walked a few paces behind him and thought, this is the lag—Charlie having, perhaps, a delayed reaction to that motorcycle making so much noise in front of his own house; in a space that Charlie regards as his domain.

The crying lasted for all of our walk. Once home, knowing that Charlie being hot (on a day with a high of 92 degrees here in New Jersey, warmer than California or Athens; global warming, you said it) was not helping things, I started cutting up a watermelon. Charlie stood and watched and then, wordlessly (but no longer crying), picked up the bowl and ate. Jim had come home by this point and put on his shorts and got out the bikes and away he and Charlie went.

Charlie has still been wearing the blue fleece jacket he's worn everyday of the fall and winter. It always takes him some time to transition to different seasons and too much explaining can just make things worse. He must have been extra over-heated yesterday, though, especially after a vigorous bike ride. He wanted to go out in the white car again and Jim and I both said a couple of uh-hmm's, and Charlie helped himself to some water and a soda from Jim's bag. He still had on his jacket and shoes; we still uh-hmm'd. I went down to the basement to start a load of laundry.

When I returned, Charlie had taken off his coat and was placing his socks beside his shoes. He went to stand near the piano, elbows pointing up as his hands were pressed over his ears. Then he asked to use the computer.

He's discovered the joys of listening to thirty-second samples of songs from albums via Amazon. We've been looking up CDs that he had a longish time ago. The samples are just long enough for Charlie to get a good taste of the song, but not so long that he gets over-stimulated by music that brings back (as music does for all of us, no?) memories, feelings, images, thoughts. Charlie also used to get very over-focused on the CDs (shiny circles) and cassette tapes (pulling out the tape was too tempting and too much fun, until he realized that he couldn't hear the music anymore). 

And he also tends to get over-focused on going, going, going; on going out to look around and then he's tired and would be better off sitting on the old, beat-up, very comfortable old blue couch. Yesterday, he needed, indeed, to be reminded, it's fine just to stay home.

But Jim and I have already agreed, much as we'd like Charlie to learn how to deal with the unexpected—he is growing up—with things that he and we and no one can control, we don't really need to have more Motorcycle Guys running their engines right in front of our, of Charlie's, house and own home.

Comments
3 Responses to “Some Sounds Are Better Than Others”
  1. Linda says:

    Glad “vroom, vroom” was not the sound of Charlie substituting walks for driving the car! Early spring has its disadvantages as motorcycles come out to play.

  2. Regina says:

    I had the same reaction for a sec as Linda and then breathed a sigh of relief.
    Our daughter was sensitive to sound for a lllooonnnggg time and I couldn’t run a vaccuum (and she would balk at going down any aisle where they were), blender, coffee grinder, etc. and I once had to literally pull her from under the car where she burrowed when a street cleaning crew went by.
    It’s a long story, but I used a systematic desensitization program over the course of several months (not AIT or anything like that). It helped. A lot. As a matter of fact she is in the kitchen grinding coffee. YMMV, and knock on wood.
    Yeah, sometimes down time is good. Take care.

  3. autismvox says:

    I hadn’t even thought of associating the vroom sounds with Charlie, um, taking the wheel—not something he’s going to be able to do, ahem. If he did, big heart attack here!

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