Having a daughter with sensory integration challenges has made me keenly aware of the prominence of ambient noise in the modern world. A normal brain can learn to ignore the constant background noise we all encounter such as the hum of refrigerators at a grocery store, the rattle of the A/C when it comes on, the sound of a weed eater two blocks away, or the rumbles and squeaks of a school bus driving by. But to kids and adults with sensory processing disorders, these sounds can be not only annoying, but maddening and painful. Roxie often cries actual tears because of the discomfort she feels when she hears a sound that upsets her. Unfortunately she is non-verbal so she cannot explain what is happening inside her head.
But recently a friend enlightened me about what Roxie may be experiencing. She had spoken to her daughter's friend, who has a form of high functioning autism, about his sensory integration challenges. This young man explained to my friend that certain sounds, including the sound of his mother's laugh, set off something in his brain that is akin to the sound of an extremely loud bell ringing inside his head. He says it is so loud and overwhelming that he can't help but cover his ears and desperately try to escape the sound. I figured that Roxie experiences something similar, but it is interesting to hear the problem described by sufferer who is able to elucidate what he feels.
We are working to decrease Roxie's sensitivities to noises that are prominent in everyday life. This is a slow process and complicated by the fact that the sounds that bother Roxie periodically change. A few years ago we had to ban any wrapping paper for birthdays or Christmas at our house because the sound of ripping paper sent her into fits. She has since adjusted to accept the sound of ripping paper so wrapping is back in fashion at the Sprinkle house!
Roxie likes to keep us on our toes. That is for sure!