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Noise Noise Noise Noise (A Couple Recommendations for Sensory Overload)

I’ve been a little disappointed in myself for not having anything to say for a month. When I’m in word mode, I can write a lot (and even speak a bit more), but then I slip into non-verbal mode again.

I know I shouldn’t be hard on myself for that. I suppose there’s some internalized ableism involved. But slipping into non-verbal mode doesn’t mean switching to visual mode, so I haven’t been either writing or doing art, and that frustrates me. It frustrates me that I really, desperately want to do these things and yet I can’t.

To be fair, I have been doing some writing, but none of it feels coherent enough to post. I’m lucky if I manage to construct my thoughts into a single sentence that I can post on Facebook.

I have to wonder if this switching is related to migraines. Because I had a migraine episode or two in the past month, amply padded with extreme sensory sensitivity. I was overloaded very easily for a couple weeks, and I’m just out of that now. It’s difficult to recover from overload when there are two sensory-seeking children running amok.

On that topic, I have two recommendations to help deal with sensory overload when you have no means of escape. It’s all well and good if you are able to retreat to a quiet space or block out the world with white noise and headphones. Those were my old stand-bys. But when you have to be present for young children, it’s not really acceptable to disappear.

The first thing that has helped me are Vibes earplugs. These reduce the volume of sound 15 decibels without destroying the quality of the sound. They were specifically made to wear at music concerts, which are often unbearably loud. But I’ve found that they help me to move background noises into the background, rather than all noise being equal, which is typical for my brain.

It feels a bit awkward wearing them because after decades I’ve gotten used to hearing sound the way that I do, and it almost feels like I’m missing things because I don’t hear absolutely every sound. But they make it much easier to focus on one thing, whether it’s a conversation or a movie.

I just can’t wear them while eating, because they make the sound of my own chewing incredibly loud and annoying. Also, if there is another noise nearby, such as a child’s iPad, which is equal in volume to whatever I’m trying to concentrate on, the earplugs don’t help that.

Unfortunately, trying to get an autistic child to either wear headphones or keep the volume turned down is a Sisyphean task. Enter the Volume Sanity app. This app allows you to restrict access to the volume control and to set a maximum level for it. The only drawback is that the app must remain open in the background, so if the child knows how to close out of apps, they can get around it. Fortunately, this one doesn’t, as evidenced by the 42,000 apps open on it at any given time.

I hope I have at least given some useful information to make up for not having much to say for a while.

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