Kids with auditory sensitivities may want to wear earplugs not just when there is a lot of distracting noise, such as a restaurant, but in places where unexpected loud sounds can disturb them: public bathrooms with toilets that flush loudly, parties where balloons pop, and so on. Contrary to popular belief, earplugs do not block out all sound. They simply reduce overall volume. Foam earplugs are cheap and easily found in drugstores, and you can teach your child with sensory issues how to roll them between her fingers to make them smaller and then insert them into the ear. While you don't want your child to become used to wearing earplugs all the time, in particularly challenging situations they can be a real stressbuster for the sensory child with auditory sensitivities.
Noise cancellation headphones are not only a great idea for concerts and Monster Truck® shows, but for sensory breaks where the child has a strong need to block out background noise and reduce auditory stimulation. These block far more noise than do earplugs so use them judiciously, ideally under the guidance of a sensory smart OT who can set up a sensory diet that incorporates breaks from auditory stimulation. Noise cancelling headphones can typically be found for $15-35 in hardware stores although you may want to do an internet search to find them in the smallest sizes.
If background noise makes it difficult for a sensory child to fall asleep or focus on schoolwork, you can use a white noise machine, a radio turned to static, a fan, or an aquarium to provide masking for distressing and distracting sounds. Experiment with music designed specifically to improve focusing, such as Hemi-Sync Metamusic®. New Age music or nature sounds may help some children with SPD focus better, or they may distract them further. Work with the child to find the music that enhances his focusing ability. Observe his responses and ask him if the music is helping or hindering him.
The information contained in this article is provided as a public service. It is for informational and educational purposes only. This information should not be construed as personal medical advice. Because each person's health needs are different, a health care professional should be consulted before acting on any information provided in these materials. Although every effort is made to ensure that this material is accurate and up-to-date, it is provided for the convenience of the user and should not be considered definitive.
Nancy Peske is an author and editor and the parent of a child who at age 2 was diagnosed with sensory processing disorder and multiple developmental delays. Coauthor of the award-winning Raising a Sensory Smart Child: The Definitive Handbook for Helping Your Child with Sensory Processing Issues, available from Penguin Books, Nancy offers information and support on her blog and website at http://www.sensorysmartparent.com She has been active in the SPD community since 2002.
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