Thursday, September 21, 2006

Aspergers and sound discrimination

I have finally had a conversation with Will where his explanation of a social situation makes sense to me.

We were driving home after school, and we were directly behind Will's bus. There were other boys in the back of the bus, some were even boys that I knew that have been over to the house to play with Will. These boys were very actively talking to each other, having a great time. I asked Will if he talked with these guys on the way home at the end of the day. He said "No." I began my usual spiel about how he SHOULD talk to these guys, that's what kids do on the way home from school -- they joke, they talk about sports, movies, bands, etc. I asked Will why he doesn't talk with them, and he very succinctly said "I can't hear them."

OK, Will can hear just fine, in fact his hearing is very acute. Like most people with Asperger's, he can hear a lawnmower from miles away, he can hear the air conditioning turn on in a room when most of the family would never notice. This is exactly the problem. There are places where the noise is so intense, and there are so many different noises coming from different directions, i.e. the bus, the hallway at school, the auditorium, the lunchroom, the gym, church, the classroom, etc., that our kids cannot discriminate between the sounds, and so they cannot socialize, they cannot carry on a conversation with four other boys.

No wonder!

Now that I know this, I know a little better than to try and push socializing on him when he just doesn't have the physical capacity to actually hear the conversation as anyone else would. I finally understand.



At 6:15 PM, Blogger me said...

I don't know about Will but when Brenden is in a loud environment his senses are completely and totally overwhelmed and he can't handle and concentrate on just a conversation which causes him stress, which causes him anxiety, which, in the past causes him to wind up on the bottom shelf of the book case or completely closed into his locker! :) It's like one big rock and role party times ten for them. I know that Christmas Parties, Field trips and any other loud, exciting thing will usually wind him up in the office listening to a relaxation tape and reading to get him to calm down. I old is Will again?

At 4:20 PM, Blogger asp413 said...

I do want to say that it gets somewhat easier, over time, in regards to learning how to cope with the cacophonous sounds which other people consider just normal social situations. The first, and most important step in learning how to handle such situations, is to recognize them! Personally, I can sense when the noise level is rising and when my brain begins to selectively tune in to some parts of the background and tune out to others. That's when it is time for me to leave. It's one of those "growing up" things that us AS people have to do -- I had to learn how to recognize the oncoming wave of noise and I learned to be proactive.

At 9:34 AM, Blogger NoSandwiches said...

ARGH! I'm 52, and still deal with this. As a child, I knew I couldn't hear the teacher or the instructions lots of times, but I kept testing with perfect hearing, and was basically called a liar. So I decided I WOULD lie, and next time this came up and I was tested at school, I pretended not to hear some of the tones. Then I was sent to a specialist, and forgot to lie. Yes, I had super exceptional hearing! Didn't help that Asperger's was not understood nor well known back then.

When I got to college, I told them I needed classes where they didn't base the entire test on lectures. I needed information in writing, and I needed instructions in writing. They tested my hearing, which was perfect, but I explained the problem, and they took me at my word and called it "Auditory Dyslexia" which it most certainly was not, but that helped me get accommodations for the first time in my life, and got me through college.

I think it's really important to give your child the words to help him explain and describe his sound discrimination issue, because people don't seem to get it, and there is/was nothing more frustrating than knowing that something is wrong and you can't deal, but not having the language to describe it.

One of my solutions to dealing with the cacophonous sounds was to join a choir. Everyone has a time to sing, and words they must use, and they all go together perfectly. At last!


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