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The drums...the drums in my head...

October 22, 2007 11:04 AM

Sometimes when I watch my daughter hold her hands to her ears even when it’s quiet I understand better than most people what’s going on.

It’s still up in the air as to if autism is genetic or environmental - I personally believe it’s a bit of both - but I do know that my daughter and I share many traits between us.

For instance both of us are sensitive to loud noises or noises of a particular pitch - usually higher up in the spectrum - or even repeating noises.

And we both seem to have internal noise to deal with as well as our senses being overloaded. My daughter deals with it by making other noises she can control like humming and repeating the same phrase over and over again. (The catch-all term for all these reactions to over-stimulation is “stimming”.)

I started out doing the same things though not in quite such an intense manner. Today I’ve learned to if not quiet the noise then at least mute it a bit. It helps if I can retreat to a quiet area but often this is not possible.

So far the best I’ve come up with for my daughter is to follow her lead but require that she face the world. For instance I do my best to make sure that she doesn’t put her hands over her ears when she’s having problems like this. This forces her to deal with the problem using a better method than covering her ears. Sounds a bit cruel but unless she learns to tone down things both internally and externally she will have some serious problems as she grows up.

I’ve considered several different things from time to time but the one that makes me wonder is sensory deprivation. Now I’m obviously not going to put my daughter in a sensory deprivation tank but I can’t help but think that being able to separate what’s coming from an internal source versus an external source might make things easier to deal with.

I’ll have to do some research on it but I wonder if you couldn’t create a comfortable chair in the center of a soundproofed room where the child could sit and just “be” for a short period of time each day. (Provided you can get them to sit still. Which is true of most children until they get older.) The room would be quiet and filtered until it was time for them to leave then slowly sounds and more lights and distractions would be allowed to enter until the room had the same “feel” as the world outside it.

I’m a Science Fiction fan and among other things have watched almost every Doctor Who episode ever made. (Starting with Jon Pertwee that is.) In the episodes directly after Tom Baker was replaced by Peter Davison they put forth the concept of a “Zero Room”. This was a room where everything, radiation, sound, anything distracting was filtered out leaving a completely peaceful area. I’ve always liked the concept and think that if a person could spend a short time each day in such a place it would help them to deal with the day-to-day things better. Kind of like an easier way to meditate.

I’m not saying this will work but it’s certainly something simple that can be tried. And even in the smallest home a room could be dedicated to such a purpose. Even if it wasn’t dedicated it could be a multi-purpose room where everything gets temporarily removed or put away for the period of time the room is “zero’d”.

It’s an interesting idea but requires more research. If anybody out there can point me in a direction of research that’s been done on this subject I’d gladly appreciate it.




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