Who's ready for school to start again? I am raising my hand, feel free to do so. We are on week 2 of social distancing and although we are really treasuring this incredibly opportune time to spend so much quality time with our kids we are for sure getting some keen insight into some of their bizarre sensory behaviors that up to now have been somewhat tolerable.
"Asheena"! This is what I hear multiple times a day. Why would someone yell that over and over? What does it mean? Is it a song? Is it a code word? Is it the latest thing kids are saying that yet again I don't know the meaning of? You have to ask my 8 year old. This is the latest nonsensical phrase or word of the month. I hear it in the morning. I hear mid morning. I hear it at noon, afternoon, late afternoon, dinner, in my nightmares. I hear it mostly when the 5 year old is screaming because the wind blew in the wrong direction and the microwave is beeping and the phone ringing and the perfect storm of noise is concentrated in my kitchen. Sometimes it's not "Asheena". Sometimes it's just random yelling or singing or incredibly annoying sound. This is an auditory difficulty.
My son makes noise when it is noisy in the room. He makes noise if he is tired. He makes noise when he is too excited. The only time he doesn't make noise is when he's reading a book, watching TV, or...well, that's pretty much it. No pun intended but that might not sound like the worst thing in the world. But I am a parent. And I have nerves. And he gets on them.
What is fascinating is that his noises are different depending on the situation. This might not sound that interesting to you but I find this incredibly intriguing because if I look at what is going on in the room and read his body language and triangulate that with the type of noise he's making (yes, I used the word "triangulate". I bet you haven't used the word "triangulate" lately) then that gives me some insight about what to do about it. So if you have a screamer or a yeller or a singer or a hummer here are some useful tips about what might be going on and what might work.
1. Noise over noise. Does your kiddo yell when there is already a lot of noise nearby? Maybe it's not a lot of noise but perhaps a song in the background or even light traffic nearby. Some kids have trouble processing auditory input. The wind blowing through the trees might sound like broken glass raked over sheet metal to them. So more noise just might be too much. So the sound of their own voice or the noise they control is the better alternative. Sometimes it might be banging a spoon or slapping the table or asking to put on the same Imagine Dragons song on again and again. You know the one I'm talking about. Having a sense of control is a common theme for our sensory kids. If they can't control the input their body is receiving then they might take it upon themselves to do so to lessen the discomfort.
So what can we do? Headphones. Remove the noise or dampen the noise or move the kid to a quieter spot. Yelling at them to shut up might work for about a minute but as most of us know, it doesn't. So do your best to reduce the audio input some how as best you can.
2. Random noise. This is one I've really noticed because like everyone else we are now homeschooling due to the insane virus. My son likes doing work. He will work for a long time because it motivates him. But what I notice is when he gets tired or bored, this is when the random noises come out. They are the whoops and the doots and the bleepity bloops. "Asheena"! They are just random, arhythmic noises. So when I finally get my 5 year old to stop moving for 3 minutes to do some Math, the fog horn my older son has for a mouth goes off and scares us half to death. This is him trying to wake himself up. He is tired or has a low alert level. So in order to arouse himself to pay attention he blasts some wind through the vocal cords to bring himself more awake.
What to do? Give him a break. Shut it down for a bit and let the kid get a movement break or lay on the floor if he's been sitting too long. He is looking to wake up so now might be Go Noodle time or send him outside. Anything but sit there longer.
3. The beatbox king. My son LOVES to beatbox. He is actually pretty good at it too. He is also a thinker and lives in his own head which can gives him what I call "crazy pants" where his energy is too much to contain. He doesn't always run around the room but will start singing (or yelling) or beat box to the circus tent music that is in his head. But it's not random, it's rhythmic. It's got some sort of cadence to it and it's consistent. He is trying to calm himself down. Anything rhythmic is calming. The tempo might change your alert level but rhythm vs lack of rhythm will always synch your mind and ultimately help you organize your thoughts. Hence humming when nervous, tapping our feet when anxious, or whistling or singing when in a good mood. We are always trying to regulate.
Ok, what can we do about it? Give him an outlet. Let him get his energy out if possible. Let him sing or use the music with what he's doing. Let 'em rip! Put on Free Bird and fly baby, fly! If you can. If you're at your nephews christening and he starts doing "up jump the boogie" then slap him a piece of gum. Proprioception or deep pressure is always a good go to to help calm and organize the brain. Heavy work, resistive work, the squeezes, blowing bubbles all help reel it in a bit when the energy is high.
So kids that are making noise are doing it for a lot of reasons. They could be overloaded or trying to wake themselves up or calm them selves down. Some kids also might be doing it to fill themselves up. Humming or making noise gives us a feeling in our chest and throat. That's giving us body awareness, that's letting me know where my body is from the inside and that can make me feel good and organized. So next time your kid is yelling or making strange noises have a look at what is going on around in the environment. Or have a look at how long they've been sitting. Maybe they need a movement break, maybe they need a quiet place to chill out, maybe they need to grab a drum and start banging or blast that annoying Imagine Dragons song for the 15th time that day. Try all of these things if you are noticing a trend or you're at your whits end and nd invest in a pair of headphones for yourself. And please keep practicing social distancing so we can squash this thing. Because if my kids don't go back to school soon I might start screaming "Asheena"!