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Autism and sensitivity to sound

Written by - The Autistic Teacher

Sensitivity to Sound

Many Autistic people have sensory differences. These can fluctuate and are unique to every individual. However, sensitivity to sound is quite common for Autistic people. Sensitivity to sound can include loud noises, noises of high frequency, background noises, and even noises that no one else can hear. They can be physically painful and cause us to feel overwhelmed, resulting in a meltdown or shutdown.

Sounds which may be challenging

There are many noises that can be challenging for autistic people. These can range from the loud and abrupt, like fire alarms and sudden bangs, to the more constant, like the hum of electricity or the sound of a dog barking. Other challenging sounds can include hand dryers, horns, high pitched noises, whispering, babies crying, complex noise, fireworks, and school bells. Each autistic individual has their own unique combination of sounds that can be difficult to handle, and these can change over time or depending on the situation.

Response to Sound

Autistic people will respond in different ways to these challenging sounds. When I start to find things too much, I struggle to concentrate, get fidgety and anxious. An Autistic person might try to mask, try to carry on, but feel very overwhelmed inside. Sensory overload can cause someone to cover their ears, have a meltdown or shutdown, panic, run away or stay rooted to the same spot.

Things that might help

While it can be difficult to prevent all challenging sounds, there are some strategies that can help manage auditory sensitivity. These can include using ear defenders or ear loops, being warned of loud noises in advance, having a quiet space to retreat to when needed, going to public places at quieter times, and having adjustments made to reduce noise levels. It can also be very helpful to have someone to provide support and understanding during challenging experiences.

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