By: Jolie Rosenthal, Occupational Therapy Student (OTS), University of New Hampshire
As summer progresses, so does the frequency of your child experiencing loud fireworks, roaring hand-dryers in the public bathrooms at the beach and pool, and the variety of sounds of other children playing outside. All of these sounds can be considerably triggering for a child with auditory sensitivities. Loud noises can provoke anxiety, rage, and irritability for children with auditory sensitivities. As difficult as it is for the child to deal with, it may cause extensive stress for parents as well. There are various coping mechanisms, tips, and techniques that can be implemented to help mitigate the undesirable effects of auditory triggers on children.
Noise cancelling headphones or earbuds(One you probably know)
Noise cancelling headphones can be kept in the car or your handbag for easy access in any situation in which the environment will be auditorily overwhelming for children like firework events and outdoor concerts.
Regular earbuds can be used to play soothing white noise and relaxation inducing audio frequencies which may distract from or cover up the loud auditory stimuli and comfort the child.
Give warnings and prepare
Children can be warned before certain sounds occur like those produced from vacuums, toilets, and hand dryers.
Inform your child that there is going to be a loud noise and to cover their ears; show them how they should cover their ears, and count down slowly before turning on the vacuum, hand dryer, or flushing the toilet to give your child time to prepare.
Before entering loud environments like a concert or fireworks event, do some ”heavy work” movement activities with your child which can calm the child and decrease feelings of sensory overload. Heavy work involves activities in which one is exerting oneself and receiving feedback from the body. Examples include: going on monkey bars, using a bicycle, digging in the sandbox, and practicing yoga (GriffinOT, 2021).
Putting on compression clothing before entering a triggering environment can increase the child’s comfort as well.
Copingwith the noise – What are my tools?
Oftentimes, loud noises make children upset and they may need a way to release their emotions. Taking a break and removing your child from the auditory triggers can be helpful, but is not always able to be done. In relaxed calm settings, pre teach your child how to use some “tools” for their calming toolbox when they become overwhelmed by sounds. Then when you are in the situation they will have an idea of how to use some of these simple calming tools:
Children can chew safe rubber chewing jewelry like necklaces and bracelets.
Stress balls can help children channel emotions.
Take three to five deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth and hold for a few seconds. This is one of the best ways to calm down.
Engaging in a hands-on activity is another way to distract our mental brains from the fact that we don’t like the sounds. Simple toys and activities like a coloring page with markers, playdough in a ziplock to squeeze, or drawing in a sketch book can help calm our minds (S. Smith, personal communication, July 19, 2021).
Give your child the control
Let your child flush the toilet, turn on the hand dryers, and start the vacuum so they can take the time they need to get ready for the noise. Plan and build in extra time in louder environments sometimes so that you don’t feel rushed in these situations.
Encourage communication between you and your child so they can recognize triggering stimuli and notify you before the situation escalates.
Let your child be in control of carrying their own noise headphones, chewing jewelry, and other materials that may be soothing to them.
Griffin OT. (2020, August 30). The mystery of heavy work. GriffinOT. https://www.griffinot.com/the-mystery-of-heavy-work/