“Why is my autistic child or partner getting upset over certain noises?”:

Have you ever been walking somewhere with your child or partner, when suddenly they hear a certain noise and inexplicably start crying? Perhaps it’s not just one sound, maybe it’s multiple things that seem to be upsetting them. However, you just don’t seem to understand what is upsetting them so much.

Well, I’m here to give an insight to what may be going on in their minds!

Back when I was a child, going on a bus was torture for me. As much as I enjoyed the ride itself, I would break into tears the moment the bus began to brake. My parents eventually began to notice a pattern, and would eventually cover my ears every time the bus began to stop.

As soon as the bus stopped, the engine made a sound that, though it would normally go unnoticed by most people, was excruciatingly painful for me to hear.

This is because autistic people process sound very differently to most people. What may go unnoticed by most, can be a painful distraction to autistic people.

Imagine the typical brain. It hears sounds, but is generally able to filter out any noises that are unnecessary to focus on, and focuses only on the more important sounds. However, an autistic brain is more likely to struggle doing that. Autistic people often cannot filter out sounds that most block out.

Suddenly, we’re hearing so many things at once. This may become too hard to handle, and it can end up result in the person having a meltdown, crying, covering their ears, or just remaining frozen in place.

What you can do to help them:

Don’t question it, even if you don’t understand it:
One of the most common issues autistic people face when it comes to sensory issues is people refusing to believe there’s an issue, simply because nobody else is experiencing it. Even if you don’t understand, listen to them and take it seriously.

Learn what sounds they’re more likely to react to:
If they’re crying because of a certain sound, it’s not going to be a one-off thing. Even if they can’t speak, see if you can find a connection to work out what sounds may be bothering them.

If they need to leave, let them:
There’s nothing worse than struggling in a certain place or event and not being allowed to leave. For example, if they’re at a social event, make sure they know they can leave if they need to, or go to a quiet area to calm down.

Let them wear noise-cancelling headphones, or ear defenders:
Noise-cancelling headphones can be one of the greatest things to give to an autistic person. While it of course won’t cancel out other sensory issues, it’ll at least make sounds a lot easier to process and cope with.

Let them stim if it’s safe:
Stimming is a repetitive action a lot of autistic people do to express emotion, or to cope during stressful situations. If they stim to cope, there’s nothing wrong with it, as long as the stim in question is safe.

Got any other questions? Leave them in the comments, and I’ll try to get in touch as soon as I can!

6 thoughts on ““Why is my autistic child or partner getting upset over certain noises?”:

  1. The one that really gets to me is, of all things, carpet friction. If people drag furniture across a carpet floor and it makes that “HFGFGHGFHGFHGHGHFFHHFHFG” noise, it literally makes me shudder. I can’t stand it and usually have to leave after less than a minute. I’ve gotten at least somewhat used to walking on carpeted floors but I still get uncomfortable if I start noticing it. Thankfully my house and room is hardwood and my mother has been mindful in getting me rugs for my room. The first one was a faux fur rug, the second and current one is one of those woven fabric rugs.
    Aside from that, I don’t recall any specific noises besides the obvious like chalkboard scraping etc. I’m just bothered by sudden or loud noises in general.

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  2. Thank you so much for sharing, I definitely learned a few new things! I’m trying to learn as much as I can so I can support not only my friend who’s son is on the spectrum, but more importantly, I want to be able to support her son when his needs may not be getting met. Thank you.

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  3. I had to have a laugh at seeing this posted today given that I’ve been struggling all day with Too Much Noise (TM). I’ve got used to there just being me and my boyfriend, or sometimes a couple of other people will come visit us and when its in your own home there are ways to control for noises a bit more. But we’ve been visiting my boyfriend’s family for Christmas and they are just loud and don’t even seem to realise it. Every single one of them eats with their mouth open and talks whilst eating and eats whilst their food is still way way too hot (resulting in them talking whilst inhaling air to cool the food and chewing at the same time and each of those things are bad enough on their own, but all together?). It has been sensory hell here and I’ve barely had time to recover from my meltdowns as our room here is directly above the living room and they have speakers in the ceiling and also a separate sound system which is far more powerful than it needs to be. So either of those travels up through the floor easily. And of course they all talk loudly and have multiple conversations so I’m sat there overwhelmed by the noise, struggling to focus on just one conversation and noone apart from my boyfriend seems to understand just how bad it is.

    So today I was saying how loud it was and that it was very painful it being so loud and was covering my ears, and none of the people there seemed to grasp that maybe it might be beneficial if they were, you know, quieter. Even when I said “it wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t as loud”. They just carried on at the same volume as if nothing was really wrong. So I just ended up sitting there with tears running down my face and noone thought to ask if I was ok (other than my boyfriend, he was doing well, but you’d have thought the others would have taken a hint that someone was crying and therefore upset and maybe that’s a situation you’d want to help the person in). They just kept on talking as if I wasn’t even there. Which was “fun”.

    Being hypersensitive to sound (of pretty much any kind too) is probably the hardest of my sensory sensitivities I have to cope with. If its too bright I can turn the lights off. If tags irritate me I can cut them out. I’ve sorted all my clothing to be sensory suitable for me already. I can avoid foods which are bad tastes and textures. I can mostly avoid bad smells. But sound? Its so hard to block out. I don’t yet have any ear defenders because adult ones don’t fit me – they are too big. And I’ve not found anywhere in store I could try on kids ones to see if they’d fit me ok. Same issue with noise cancelling headphones. My boyfriend tried to lend me his, but they just amplified the horrid white noise in my ears on top of everything else outside I could still hear. And I had to hold them in place too so they wouldn’t just slip off and sit against my jaw. I’m not sure if ones which fit my tiny head would even help that much as generally over the ear things like that put pressure on my glasses and press my ears against them uncomfortably. And also they don’t stop vibrational noise. I have issues with noises which cause a lot of vibration which can be felt through your body. The music being played the other day made the pillow on our bed vibrate! Not pleasant at all.

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  4. The sound of hands rubber fabric, or repetitive noises like a drop of a pc/phone notification. My child can’t stand the toilet flushing, my mother can’t stand lots of noises, we couldn’t ate test, celery or chips just because the sound of it in our mouths. 3 of us have time to time sound related meltdowns.

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