Monday, January 30, 2012

Sensitivity to Lights and Sounds in Vehicles

Children with sensory integration disorder or sensitivities to light and sound, can resist going out for a walk, playing on the playground, and even going for a ride in the car. Sensory integration disorder is when the brain doesn't understand the information it is receiving from the senses and misinterprets it.

When a child is sensitive to the brightness of light or sound that it is either too loud or high-pitched, they may overreact and exhibit a variety of behavioral challenges, such as crying, screaming, having headaches or stomachaches. As onlookers, we interpret this child as being temperamental or having a bad day. The way the parents respond, if they are not aware of this sensitivity, is to do a number of things to calm or stop the child's behavior. Most people have not heard of sensory integration disorder, although it is on the rise, primarily due to the frequency of diagnosis and quantity of people having the same or similar sensory issues.

Sensory integration disorder can coexist with Autism spectrum disorders, other learning disabilities or disorders. The book, "The Out of Sync Child," by Carol Stock Kranowitz, discusses and explains what this disorder is and how to adjust events in your child's life so that your child can be more comfortable. Checklists on the web do not fully understand the disorder, and try to attest their validity by making blanket statements, with black and white conclusions. Many children exhibit sensory issues, but parents and therapists may not recognize all the symptoms. Symptoms may occur one day and not the next two days or new ones may surface. Some days a child may be overly sensitive to sound or light, and other days they may be under sensitive.

Some children are okay with having sunglasses on, to protect their eyes from the light. Those who do not like to have things on their face or who are too young to wear eye protection, can typically shield their eyes with a hood or cover. Vehicles that have darkly tinted windows in the backseat are perfect for these children. Some people find that tires that do not have a specific expiration mileage will produce more sound and noise than tires that that last for just 50,000 or 100,000 miles, for example. These types of tires are firmer due to the amount of rubber that is spun tighter around the tire.

Some of the newer vehicles, have features that auto adjust mirrors so light is either reflected or muted and won't glare or bounce off other reflective objects in the car. Additionally, there are muted colored lights throughout the car that given an amber, blue or red glow to light the console or dashboard.

If you are unable to purchase a newer vehicle, there are ways to adjust the interior of your car to reduce the glare or brightness. Private investigators use black curtains hung near or around the windows to prevent the light from glaring in. The same curtain can be used to hang from the inside of the car's window, using the window to hold it up. Using white noise machines, video games, or soft music helps with irritating or aversive sounds.

Observe your child's behavior on a daily basis to see how or if the amount of light is bothersome. Ask your child questions and help them become more comfortable. Traveling in a car with your child in car can be a pleasant experience; most importantly, it needs to be safe so the driver is not distracted and the passengers are safe.

Julie Callicutt is the owner of Ferko Therapeutic Group, a company specializing in providing intensive rehabilitation therapy to children with disabilities, specifically those on the Autism Spectrum. Julie's services include 1:1 intensive therapy, coaching/mentoring of caregivers and making herself available to speak at local and national early childhood conferences. If you would like more information, please visit,

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