Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Noise-Part 1

Of the many different definitions of noise, two leap out at me as directly applying to autism. One is "acoustic noise", which can be defined as meaningless sound of greater than usual volume. The second is what I term "informational noise", or meaningless information that obscures true data.

As this is only my second blogging post, I'm going to deal with the first definition today. I'll save dealing with the second for another time.

The way Buddy Boy reacts to acoustical noise in his environment has always fascinated me. On the one hand, he is quite sensitive to many loud (and only mildly loud) sounds. The first time we took him to a circus we had quite a time of it (hands over ears, screaming, etc.). It was obvious that he was physically in pain. This same reaction has been repeated several times in many different settings, though over the last year or so it has not been as bad. We don't purposely take him to loud places (I may be a bad parent, but I wouldn't purposely torture my son), but he will want to go somewhere, we will warn him that it will be loud, he'll insist on going, then want to leave immediately.

At the same time, though, there seems the innate ability to overcome/adapt/deal with acoustic noise if the stakes are high enough. For example, the lure of a McDonald's Happy Meal with it's enclosed toy is enough for Buddy Boy to want to go to the children's play area there (even though it sometimes has noise levels that hurt my aging ears). Another example is a kids play place in our area that has tubes to crawl through, food, and bunches of games for kids to play that pay out "tickets" (For Americans, think Chuckie Cheese on steroids). This place has noise levels that rival standing behind a 747 on a runway before takeoff. Yet I constantly get badgered by Buddy Boy to go there, as he is fixated on collecting the tickets. Not because he wants to trade them in for trinkets at the desk on the way out, but because he is obsessed with the tickets themselves. He's happy spending hours in there. We always need a strong motivator to get him to leave this place without creating a big scene.

What is it that enables Buddy Boy to sometimes put up with horrendous amounts of noise at one time, yet to be in physical pain from lesser amounts of noise at others?

There must be a research study in there somewhere.

No comments: