A gifted individual is a quick and clever thinker, who is able to deal with complex matters. Autonomous, curious and passionate. A sensitive and emotionally rich person, living intensely. He or she enjoys being creative. -definition of giftedness written by the Netherlands Study on Giftedness in Adults

Monday, July 25, 2011

Is This "The Thing" ?

So today as we are walking up to Robot Camp, discussing group behavior, temper tantrums and why you can't do that at camp, the kidlet turns to me and says, "sometimes when the other kids are screaming it makes me feel really angry." 

Lightbulb! Ok yeah, so the kidlet doesn't have the emotional vocabulary to use, but I fill in for him, "Oh, so you mean that you start feeling really agitated when there is a lot of noise?" 

"Yeah. But the jets taking off right behind me don't matter so much" (his camp is on a small airstrip where planes take off regularly). "It's when the younger kids scream."

Well, duh mom! Ever since first grade, when kidlet would sit in school assemblies, covering his ears, rocking back and forth, and crying - I've known that he is extremely sensitive to noise. After he said this today, I started tracking back over times he typically gets over-excited or over-agitated, and yes - they seem to be mostly connected to an extra measure of people-noise. I always associated it with the excitement of (fill in the blank - guests at our house, a classroom full of kids with so much to see and do, church with people milling about and loud music...)... but what if it's the noise? 

So I explained to him that he needs to pay attention to when he starts to feel agitated and let the counselors know that he just needs a quiet(er) place to calm himself, I talked to the counselors myself to explain, and sent the requisite email to the head counselor. Of course, when I picked him up at the end of the (uneventful) day, I asked if he had been paying attention to the noise level and how it made his body feel. He said, "not really." (This is when I want to take that darned Executive Function and force-feed it some green beans so it can mature faster. WHEN will he get that connection between knowing what to do and doing it?)

So now we are on (yet another) sensory-modulation and coping skills hunt - how can we modulate the auditory input just enough so he doesn't go over the top emotionally, while giving him enough input so that he can learn adequate coping skills? I almost always have music on in the car and at home - that is MY auditory modulation device because helps me block out the sounds that I don't want to hear. I wonder if that will that work for the kidlet (I don't mean blocking him out by turning up the music - I mean giving HIM some music to tune in to). I will have to buy him another MP3 player (first one went to tech heaven after a run-in with the clothes washer - and dryer) and fill it with some of his favorite songs, just to see. I'll let you know how it goes.

We may never get a full answer to some of our questions, but days like today give me hope that maybe - just maybe - we will find ways to help our little kidlet take another step to maturity. 


  1. YMMV, but we used earplane earplugs for my DD who was overwhemled with the sound in her school cafeteria. She could subtly put them in by herself, and because they were the kind with the small hole in them, she could talk with her friends, listen to instructions from teachers, etc. The noise was affecting her whole afternoon, she would be unable to keep it together behaviorially after lunch... so glad we were able to help her figure this sensory quirk out. Her teacher was great about other facets of her gifted quirkiness (and helped with the boredom issue of the after lunch review), but the behavior issues were becoming a problem for others. :-) We got them at our local ENT in pediatric size, but adult size is readily available at pharmacies. She only used them for maybe two months before she learned to self-modulate the noise and then only pulls them out now when she feels agitated (i.e. lawnmower, baby crying, vacuum).

  2. It sounds like sensory overload. I have a hearing problem and when there are too many people talking it sounds like "line noise" (you know the fax modem sound if you picked up the line)... it can get frustrating and overwhelming.

  3. Yes, we noticed a difference in ability to manage after lunch, too. I was just not putting that together with noise, thinking it had to do with what was in his lunch (did he eat/not eat? too much sugar or processed foods?). I was reading all sorts of things about hypoglycemic reactions (which occur before lunch) and getting myself confused! I love the earplugs idea - will have to check into them. Thanks! :)

  4. We use noise reduction buffers from home depot - construction guys use them. Not very subtle, but my son loves them. He can't stand the feeling of the little plugs, and he can still hear with these on. He uses them at the movies and fireworks as well as at school. In addition to the noise reduction he also likes the pressure on his head (more sensory). We bought several different pairs to find the ones he liked best and then returned the rejects. Hope this helps.

  5. Another great idea! Thanks Liz! :)

  6. Kids screaming is just a fun for me. It happens that every thing cannot be full filled what ever the kids demands. So they should be controlled or else in future it will be a great problem.