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Avoiding the Onslaught of Sound

Peter spends a great deal of his life figuring out how to avoid sensory pain.

As Peter gets older and is able to cope with more, we push the envelope a bit. When he was little he could not handle an entire party without running in and out of the room over and over again.  I knew it was sensory overload, but I was not sure how to fix it.

One party had a bench outside, so I managed to get Peter to sit there for awhile. He said, “I needed a break.” For me, it was an “Ah ha moment.” At parties after that, we would program in the breaks and that made Peter be able to stay at the party longer and longer until one party he never asked for the break.

Peter can hear all the conversations, which makes it harder to focus on the person trying to talk with him. Some rooms are harder to cope with than others. Throw in a fan, air conditioner or music and sometimes it reaches unbearable for him.

Our anniversary proved my theory correct. A few weeks ago, he could not deal with a party in a small room and many conversations. When we went to dinner for our anniversary, we had the whole section of the restaurant to ourselves.

Peter willingly put away the iPhone. He talked with Grandma and Grandpa and told them about school. He reminded all of us to say Grace when the food arrived, but started saying the Our Father, his go-to prayer. I gave him the first two words for Grace and he actually led the prayer.

At the end of dinner, he said he needed a break so Bill took Peter for a walk outside, looking at the river. Peter was able to come back and enjoy dessert.

I try to pay attention to that concept of needing a break at other types of events too. In theaters, we go to our seats close to opening curtain. The sounds of the show are easier than all the conversation in the theater while waiting.

At concerts, I have asked Peter to cope with the part his sister is in, but then we hang out in the vestibule. He once told Bill, “I hear every instrument, EVERY instrument.” At the Boston Pops that may be fun, but at a middle school concert, I am sure it is challenging.

Even with all these observations there are times Peter hits a limit and usually language is the first thing to go. He goes into little boy mode, begging to be free of the pain he is fearing and/or feeling. I am searching for the next "Ah ha moment" to keep making it easier for Peter to cope with what we consider a normal day.

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