Sensory issues..need advice



After reading so many posts the last month or so I began thinking of my difficult child. When he was young he had ear problems, didn't think much as many young kids do. But he would not go to any fast food resteraunt because of the french fry buzzer..I just thought that was strange and never thought any more about it. never heard of sensotory issues. Then when he started school, teachers would tell me how he would react to fire drill alarms and a certain clock that would tick loudly. He wouldn't go to sports events that had buzzers like basketball, hockey and any others. When he was in first grade he complained of how he heard "echoey voices" when people would speak. Ears ringing, and loud noises. Dr. removed his tonsils which took away the "echoey affect". Never thought anymore about it. He had one fantastic teacher who worked so very good with him. As for his frustration at that time, she said when he would get a large assignment he would shut down because he was so overwhelmed, not seeing it in small peices but rather such a large assignment. She worked with him on taking it one step at a time. It was his best year ever. I talked to him tonight about this. He said the noise still bothers him but he has learned to tolerate it. But when people yell or there are loud noises his whole face feels funny and sometimes he cries because of it. I asked if he still feels overwhelmed at times and he had a big "YES".
Any input from anyone? I know nothing in this area. Anything I can do for him?


It sounds like sensory issues may possibly be an issue with your son. You might consider having him evaluated by an Occupational Therapist (Occupational Therapist (OT)).

My difficult child is bothered by loud noises. Not to the extreme of some, but she covers her ears for things such as the garage door and other loud noises. She also cannot filter out background noise.

As far as seeing the whole assignment instead of being able to breaking it into pieces, that may be more along the lines of Executive Function stuff. Our therapist recognized these potential issues with difficult child, but wanted a neuropsychologist to confirm.


Active Member
That definitely sounds like sensory issues. If an Occupational Therapist (OT) can help, that is great. We've not had a lot of luck there - having one in the family has been the best help - perhaps because things work a bit differently down here. What we've done has been to try to find ways around it for ourselves. You can't just bulldoze through it and hope it will work out, because you will still have a kid who isn't coping too well.

What we've done - we worked with schools as far as possible to reduce sensory overload in general. During quiet class work we provided difficult child 3 with headphones and a portable CD player. We let him help choose the music, with the rules t hat there weren't to be any lyrics (or he would sing along) and it couldn't be too stimulating (ie no heavy metal). We found the best music was Handel, Mozart, Japanese animé and techno. Some of the lighter Beethoven, such as Pastorale and 9th Symphony, work well too. By listening to that he was able to not hear, or reduce, any sounds which bothered him. Classmates were curious and were pushing to be allowed the same privilege, but the teacher explained to them that THEY would have to listen to classical music as well, so they rapidly lost interest.

At home and in the car (or when out and about and finding things too much) he listens to our iPod, which has his school music files on it. We no longer have a ban on music with lyrics so we generally let him choose fairly freely. He's working out for himself which distracts him and which enables him.

Some sounds don't bother him when we would expect that they would - thunder is not a problem (apart from him wanting to rush through the house and shut down all computers to safeguard them). Shrill sounds have always been a worry for him. Repetitive thumps bother him because he says he can feel them (like earthmoving equipment ANYWHERE in the village). Sometimes an OK sound can be very loud and still not worry him, but other sounds can be almost inaudible to others and he just can't cope.

For some it's textures, for others it's visual. And as you will have read, there is also body awareness (or lack of it) connected to this too. Food can be a big one - taste, plus texture and sometimes colour too. Being either hypersensitive or insensitive to hot or cold; supersensitive to seams in clothing, or the label inside the collar. My girls HATE to wear pure wool next to their skin - the softest wool still feels scratchy and they just won't wear it. The boys are even worse. I've known a number of Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) kids to only wear t-shirts inside out.

It's a matter of studying the individual child, listing the things that are a problem, and finding an alternative. If the child is old enough involve them in the choices.

Life is never dull with kids like ours.



Seems to only be hearing issues with him. But why after all these years is he just telling us that it still bothers him? I see him jump when buzzers go off, but he has stopped putting hands over his ears. sometimes I see his hands gesture like he wants to but he stops himself.
I just want to make him feel better and feel as if I am making it worse, since we argue about everything lately. And if he doesn't want to get yelled at, why doesn't he follow the rules?
If noises bother him even someone yelling at him (he said that), then why does HE yell?? Wouldn't that bother him? He likes going to concerts with easy child, that has got to be loud. I guess I don't understand how some noises really affect him and others do not.
As for writing, he always had an issue with that. Fourth grade teacher allowed him to do work on the computer in class. No one dare question her on why, she was just a super teacher and had total control over everyone in her class. She has since moved to china to teach. Comes back once a year and always calls him and takes him to church and dinner. I remember once I went to pick him up from class, and he yelled at me. That teacher asked me to please step out of the room. She took him by the hands and said nobody speaks that way in Her classroom, even when school is out. She told him he had to apologize to me, he said no. She told him she will stay there all night if she needed to and he would not leave until he did. took him about 20 minutes and he apologized. But...she was the teacher that told us he would not need to learn cursive. He skipped second grade where they learned cursive, and we were concerned. Now, even more concerned. What if he is handed a document in cursive?? We don't know if he could even read it.


New Member
Our difficult child has issues with noise, too. He has super sensitive hearing and some sensory issues also. He has learned to be able to tolerate it for some time, but when he's done dealing with the noise, whatever it happens to be, you better be ready to go, because he can only handle it for so long.

I, too, am stumped that he has these issues and yet still manages to be one of the LOUDEST children I have ever come in contact with. He seems to yell everything - beginning first thing in the morning when I'm standing right next to him in the kitchen. That doesn't seem to bother him at all.

Guess maybe it's only external noise?
I think, if it is a sensory issue, it is the TYPE, or TIMBRE of the noise, that affects the child.

My difficult child has a kaniption fit if we go under a viaduct while a train is going overhead, but can sit by the train tracks as the trains go by all day. The fire alarm at the school has no affect on her, but the air raid siren (which is a mile away) drives her batty. She can listen to the TV at full blast, doesn't flinch if she is yelled at, and yells louder than any kid I have ever heard. But when the guy down the road with the loose fan belt is coming home, she can hear him 2 minutes before he arrives, and she has her hands on her ears. One constant is if there is too much of ANY type of noise, she gets overstimulated and she cannot tolerate that. Who knows what makes something intolerable for her. But that type of thing can be seen in her other senses how she can punch herself in the head, but screams bloody murder if I try to brush her hair.


New Member
difficult child has sensory issues too. according to what i have read this is part of the BiPolar (BP). i too suggest advanced testing from Occupational Therapist (OT).


Well-Known Member
Could you explain the sensory issue-specifically the diff between BiPolar (BP) and Aspies--in more detail? Or I can read a link. Thanks.


New Member
My son has major sensory issues with noise. His old Occupational Therapist (OT) suggested we let him wear ear plugs. Just the ones you put in for swimming.They do not go right in the ear but prevent water fro getting in.. It worked like a charm. He could still hear when we talked to him but it help him to filter out sounds that bothered him. He doesn't wear them at school anymore but we still put them in when we go to the mall or to places that have a lot of noises at one time.

As far as the clothing issues.. That has been fun to deal with. He is wearing jeans for the first time this year. He stil hates rough fabic such as cords. He will not wear sandles or anything with an open toe. The sheets on his bed have to be jersy material or he can't sleep. His socks can't be worn twice or washed before he wears them. Underpants have to be the fitted boxer style and they also can't be washed more than once.

Dressing this kid gets very interesting some times. I love the summer when he pretty much wears his swim shorts all the time.


Active Member
Terry, I'm not sure what differences there are between bipolar and Asperger's with the sensory issues. I can only speak from our own experience; basically, it's always seemed to me that the boys have some sort of disordered sensory input. difficult child 1 especially suffered from it in primary school (corresponds with elementary, I think). He found it hard to concentrate with ALL sensory input being distracting. He would mentally fatigue fast, get anxious faster, when there was more sensory input, it really didn't matter too much what sort. For example, trying to listen to his teacher with earthmoving equipment outside the room would be difficult for any kid. For difficult child 1, having lots of different things to look at, a lot of movement or bright colours, was just as 'loud' to him and just as much of a distraction. And, of course, schoolrooms are highly stimulating environments.
A scratchy shirt would also distract him from paying attention; not because he was busy fidgeting, but because it was sensory input which stopped him focussing exclusively on what he had to do.
The teacher he had first would have all the kids sitting around her on the floor and she would sit difficult child 1 right up close, sitting on her feet. He coped best this way.
The following year he had an authoritarian teacher who sat him up the back of the class and got angry with him every time he fidgeted or wasn't paying attention. He crashed & burned in the first few weeks. Of course, he had no diagnosis at this stage because although I had concerns, I kept getting told there was nothing wrong with him.
As he got older he had some support and also learned to cope by narrowing his focus down really tightly, to close out all other distractions. He was on medications for ADHD which also seemed to make it easier for him to concentrate.

Sensory Integration Disorder (SID) affected him in other ways, most notably with toilet training. It's only been in recent years that we've been able to stop reminding him that maybe he's overdue for a long session "in the reading room". He simply didn't get the message from his body, until it was screaming at him.

difficult child 3 - toilet training problems of course, plus food fussiness: he won't eat anything with a creamy texture. He loves coffee (decaf, of course - we won't risk giving him caffeine, ever), but is VERY fussy about the slightest trace of froth on his coffee. He knows that the best coffee has a small amount of natural crema on it but he always tries to spoon it away or drink around it until it settles. We're trying to break him into cappuccino - he knows intellectually that it's frothed milk, not creme, but his preference will always be flat white, I think.
He loves the feel of towelling next to his skin - it calms him down. He only eats a certain variety of a certain brand of packaged frozen fish. The only bolognese sauce he would eat is my recipe, cooked by me. If even husband cooks it, following my recipe, difficult child 3 can tell.

With autism you get stims in a lot of cases. These can be obvious, or subtle. The classic hand-flapping stimulant, where the kid is looking at his fingers and the light through them as he waves his hand, has been described as soothing to the brain, like a cat being stroked. For difficult child 3 we noticed a very early fascination with light flickering through leaves on the trees. He was a week old when we first saw it. At three months we found that the sound of bagpipes, from a piper tuning up (never a pleasant sound) to the massed bands of a parade ground full of pipe bands, would put him to sleep. We tested this over the next few months and it worked without fail. Bagpipes were soothing for him. He also liked other music but was fussy at first. I experimented with different types of music, awake and asleep, and he quickly showed his preferences. With his favourites (always Mozart, some Bach and some Beethoven) he would crawl to the speakers and put his ear right up next to them to feel the vibrations. We couldn't shift him until the music stopped, when he would often cry. It was uncanny - I had a cousin like that, I'd been told. We now think that cousin was an Aspie.

We often find Sensory Integration Disorder (SID) meeting Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD).
easy child 2/difficult child 2 has a fetish for certain textures, especially soft ones, just as she hates anything the slightest bit scratchy in clothing. She won't wear cheesecloth, for example, and only the softest muslin will do. Synthetic satin is OK but some varieties don't breathe, velvet is adored as is furry fabric. She hates wool but wears sheepskin boots (uggs) whenever she can get away with it. She made a fur fabric cover for her school folder, and then carried her folder everywhere - this was a way to acceptably enjoy her obsession in public. She has made cushions and blankets from fur fabric and sleeps with them.
She is also fussy about certain foods, certain noises, everything being lined up just so, and despite the fact that our house is amazingly untidy, our cutlery basket is immaculate. Even the dishwasher has to be loaded with matching forks next to matching forks, etc. A certain amount of this is normal; in our house tantrums are thrown if things aren't right.
For easy child 2/difficult child 2 the bath has to be run at 42.6 degrees C. difficult child 3 likes his bath cooler but is prepared to adapt (we have to take turns in the same bathwater, to conserve the water).

The Sensory Integration Disorder (SID)/Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) thing - difficult child 3 has been enjoying having my lava lamp nearby while doing schoolwork. The only problem is, he watches it obsessively.
Both boys gave me a classic example here - when our front-loading washing machine arrived and I immediately put a load on to wash, I found the boys in the laundry sitting on the floor, totally engrossed. difficult child 1 said, without looking up, "I don't know why but I find this strangely compelling."

From what I read here, it seems like kids with BiPolar (BP) can be very similar. It is very hard for me to draw a line and say, "This is Sensory Integration Disorder (SID). This bit here is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). This bit there is the normal kid, in there somewhere."
We just deal with it and live with it. And keep nesting the cutlery correctly.