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The use of ear defenders in mainstream primary?

(25 Posts)
dietstartstmoz Thu 07-Feb-13 19:41:15

DS2 is aged 5, ASD in mainstream primary with a statement and full support. He is doing well, and school are generally pleased with him, he has made good progress since starting school and has a great TA.
This week he has been given a pair of ear defenders to use in class, by the autism support teachers who go in to offer advice. Noise is not a big issue for him, but we have been told when the class is noisy he is stimming loudly trying to drown them out, and struggling to focus on work.
The ear defenders are big blue headphone-type things and my heart sunk initially. DS is tolerating them, and is happy to wear them.
My feeling is that they may as well put a big sign on his back saying 'Kick me I have SN', do I just need to get over myself? accept they will help my son etc, I just have such an urge to protect him and although he has not yet been bullied (and i'm not even sure if he would realise at the moment), my gut instinct is that its just another obvious thing that makes him different, may make him a subject of ridicule etc., but then he is different anyway isnt he?
Advice or a kick up the arse for me?
Or does anyone know of any other solutions?
Thanks

AgnesDiPesto Thu 07-Feb-13 20:48:27

If he does not have a problem with noise he does not need them

The whole 'all children with asd are different' mantra goes out the window when it comes to staff who have been on a sensory course.

Sensory issues are massively overdiagnosed in my opinion because staff are not trained to tell the difference between a stim / repetitive behaviour and a definite sensory aversion to something. DS has loads of stims but almost no sensory issues

We had a sensory profile done when ds was 2 and everything that came out with definite difference eg under responsive to his name being called became sensory eg he did not respond to his name because he was under responsive to noise and would need more oral input. In the very same report they said he needed to wear ear defenders in the classroom because he had verbal stims to drown out noise. So the same report said he was both under sensitive and over sensitive to noise simultaneously, and needed more oral input from the teacher but with ear defenders on.

I think our OT and your outreach teacher must have been on the same course!

DS has always been fine with noise e.g. at the swimming pool which is about the most noisy echo-y environment.

If they can get him to focus on work eg by using reinforcers / rewards and breaking the work down properly, then the verbal stims may stop especially if they target them eg give tokens or rewards for being quiet etc They can work on the stims by rewarding him for not doing them - but thats a behavioural approach and she probably has no training in that

Ask for her the evidence base that children with autism make noises because of an aversion to noise.

An alternative to ear defenders if he is genuinely distressed - and from what you say he's not - would be to give him regular breaks out of the classroom when its noisy

bialystockandbloom Thu 07-Feb-13 20:58:42

Agree with agnes 100000%

It's the equivalent of insisting a verbal, chatty child needs visual aids because "asd children are visual learners" rather than being bothered to engage the child enough to explain to them verbally.

Yes, there are differences between him and the others, but it sounds like noise aversion is not one of those differences.

Is it reception or Y1?

If he is struggling to focus during noisy times, they could take him into a quieter corner to complete his work. If the class is noisy during non-work times or if he's still in reception and it's always noisy, then why does it matter if he makes noise from stimming anyway? And if it's a noisy time for the class, it presumably woulnd't be during a work-task anyway so how could it affect his ability to 'work'?

Sounds like she's just wanting to tick a box saying she provided some support/intervention tbh.

Why is the stimming bothering them?

I would refuse them.

bialystockandbloom Thu 07-Feb-13 21:03:14

Also agree with agnes about the over-emphasis on sensory issues. Stims can be for loads of different reasons (over-excitement, avoidance, trying to communicate etc). The thing that will eliminate them (if that's what you want to do) is to work out why he's really doing it and find a replacement for that activity (eg helping his communication). I really don't think blocking off his ability to hear clearly is going to help with this - sounds like it's more for their benefit to keep him quiet!

dietstartstmoz Thu 07-Feb-13 21:28:31

Brilliant-thank you everyone. I needed that advice to help me focus and get my argument togther as to why we dont want him to wear them. He is in yr1 and the noise is not bothering him. You are right, i think its a box ticking exercise as well. Thanks mn sn wisdom

inappropriatelyemployed Thu 07-Feb-13 21:37:30

I agree too. If he doesn't need them, don't use them.

I agree that it is too easy to put things down to sensory issues but I also think it is equally easy to attribute behaviour to any other particular cause and it depends on the approach of the therapist and their field of expertise. OTs like sensory stuff, ASD outreach love visual charts, ABA therapists may decide its about teaching compliance.

I think you take a bit of what you want depending on what works for your child and dump the rest.

zzzzz Thu 07-Feb-13 21:46:06

The senco at Ds2's school is obsessed with him "being very sensitive to sound" predominantly because she is convinced that his twin who has severe language disorder has ASD, and so ds2 has "traits". She taught him to cover his ears in year 1 "to cope" when things got noisy....it had NEVER been an issue at all, but he dutifully developed an ear covering reaction to loud noises (to be fair mostly at school grin ).

2 years later we are still undoing this nonsense.

If he doesn't have the problem FGS don't introduce it.

Honk honk

bialystockandbloom Thu 07-Feb-13 22:02:21

If he doesn't have the problem FGS don't introduce it.

Abso-bloody-lutely!

Scottishdancer Fri 08-Feb-13 09:39:40

Our ds (asd) DOES have a big issue with noise and OT recommended ear defenders. I would have been happy to try them, but Dh was very much against them, as was SENCO as she felt that nobody would speak to him if he was wearing them, almost like a sign saying" I don't want o talk". Not sure if she was right, but I can see her point. Like others have said If he doesn't have a problem with noise I wouldn't use them.

frazzledbutcalm Fri 08-Feb-13 09:42:14

How do you get over the noise issue? Just curious as ds suffers sad

frazzledbutcalm Fri 08-Feb-13 09:43:50

Oh, and sorry, I wouldn't use ear defenders if OP ds is not bothered by noise. Can't understand the reasoning... How do they know your ds is stimming to drown out noise??, if he's not bothered by it??

Scottishdancer Fri 08-Feb-13 10:08:06

Haven't got over the noise issue I'm afraid. He is still really struggling and as he moves up the school (now in yr 5) it seems to be getting worse. He frequently gets taken out to a quiet area, but as school is open plan there aren't many of them.

EllenJaneisstillnotmyname Fri 08-Feb-13 10:32:06

He may well be being over stimulated and getting excited by a busy classroom, but so would my DS who is definitely not oversensitive to sound. It took me a long time to work out why all the ASD courses kept banging on about sensory issues when IMO, DS2 didn't have any. One day, reading More than Words, the penny dropped. He does sense things differently, he's under sensitive to pretty much everything and consequently moves around a lot, spins and flaps, plays around with his voice, likes voices to be loud and expressive, loves strong tasting food, will try anything new, (then never again if he doesn't like it!) used to stare at the lights etc, etc.

If your DS doesn't have a problem with noise, apart from getting excited, then school are using these headphones as a behavioural control, for their benefit, not for your DS's. I would suggest that you find out what is the actual problem, and see if they can find a solution that deals with the problem, not just keeping your DS quiet.

bigbluebus Fri 08-Feb-13 14:13:15

What is this course they send these TA's and teachers on and who is running them? Because either they are teaching them rubbish or the staff aren't paying attention!
DS was branded as "unable to cope with change" at Primary School. When I asked why they thought that (as DS had lead a very unstructured life with sudden medical emergencies for his DSIS a frequent feature in which the whole family's schedule changed rapidly) I was told "he went in to assembly and we all had to sit a different way round to normal as we had put the stage up for the school play". Did DS have a meltdown over it? No, he just wanted to know why they were sitting a different way around!!!
Likewise when he was transitioning to Secondary school, they made him stand in the corridor for 5 minutes whilst the bell rang for lesson change. DS was bemused by the whole exercise until I explained to him that they thought he couldn't cope with loud noises! Evidence for this......... absolutely none!
Session one of their course should be entitled "What is a Spectrum?"

AgnesDiPesto Fri 08-Feb-13 15:50:15

HA! 'what is a spectrum' that's classic.
I don't doubt many children sense things differently but I hate the way they use sensory issues to overrule a parents gut instinct. We know if our children are distressed or not. It reminds me of convo with outreach which went:
Her: he has autism he will be highly anxious
Me: he's not anxious at all, he's really passive
Her: he will be anxious you just haven't noticed

Her observation said something like ds sat at the table for the whole 20 mins doing a jigsaw and did not move once. Yes clearly massively anxious. Lets give him some ear defenders so he can be even more comfortable doing a jigsaw all on his own.

EllenJaneisstillnotmyname Fri 08-Feb-13 18:02:12

I agree, Agnes. DS2 isn't an anxious child at all. He gets upset and stroppy but he's not at all anxious. I may be completely wrong, but I've always felt his sensory seeking nature seems to make him less likely to be anxious.

bialystockandbloom Fri 08-Feb-13 18:39:24

Yes I agree, as well as box-ticking, it is more for their (behaviour-management) benefit than his. They probably want to lessen any noise he makes to minimise any 'disruption' for the teacher or other pupils.

If there really is an issue with him being able to focus on work, ask that they find him a quiet corner.

bialystockandbloom Fri 08-Feb-13 18:45:53

frazzled we have successfully overcome ds's fear of some loud noises (handriers, balloons popping, those party trumpet things) with very gradual step-by-step exposure to each noise, and massive reinforcement (rewards) every time he manages to tolerate it.

We did this through our ABA programme, so it was started by the tutors, but you could do it yourself. Eg handdriers - every time we went to a public loo we took a treat with us. If ds stayed in the loo for 5 seconds, he got a sweet. Each time he mastered it, we would increase the amount of time.

With balloons, we played 'parties' at home, so had all the fun party stuff which he loved, but obv this had to include balloons & poppers. Same thing - step-by-step exposure to the 'problem', with massive rewards for each time he tolerated it, and 'pairing' the feared-thing with with something he really loved.

Not sure what noise your ds is worried about but would this kind of approach work?

signandsmile Fri 08-Feb-13 19:05:42

i agree if not noise sensitive then why do this, (DS is noise sensitive, is in MS and does wear ear defenders for noisy shouty sessions, and for assembly) we provided them and he lets his TA know when he needs them... (as it varies on how tired and stressed about other things he is).
he doesn't experience any issues with being different, (to be honest its pretty clear he is 'different' anyway hmm) but he is in a fab school...

Strongecoffeeismydrug Fri 08-Feb-13 20:19:02

When DS was in mainstream primary they used ear defenders on him without my consent,he has never had an issue with noises and I was a bit grrr when I found out as I thought they were causing new issues.
His OT gave them a bollocking as she said when she went in to assess him he actually told th he didn't want them on but they forced him to wear them grrrr.
He's now at an ASD school and they can't believe the reports from previous school about how he couldn't function without ear defenders ect ...

dietstartstmoz Fri 08-Feb-13 20:41:19

Thanks all, yes they have introduced the ear defenders without our consent, i have told them we are not happy and thanks to all of your comments I will write them a letter with all of the reasons listed above.
He is not bothered by noise. In fact he is a sensory seeker, he is under responsive to everything and makes his own noises, chews everything etc, he is not an anxious child, he is very happy and perhaps needs keeping a lid on as he can be very exhuberant and loud. His conversational speech is still coming on, and he is not able to express himself clearly but I asked him earlier if he had worn them today. He said yes, I asked him why he wears them. "I dont like it when the children shout at me", (I'm sure they dont shout at him as he has a full time TA in class). I asked him how it makes him feel, he said "angry". I asked him if he likes wearing the ear defenders, he said yes. I asked him how he felt with them on, he said "happy", ARGHHHHHH. He would not have the vocabulary to express himself much clearer, but I did wonder if this is true, if he is just saying anything (which is normal for him), or if he has been told this.
Do I just stick with my gut instinct, which is he absolutely does not need them, and your arguments above have helped me to see why they are not suitable for him. I just know that fecking school will come back with "well, you didnt want him to wear the ear defenders..." at some point in the future

bialystockandbloom Fri 08-Feb-13 21:04:47

I would still go with your gut instinct. My view would be that the key thing is whether using them is making any difference to his inclusion, to his wellbeing, and to his learning. The only thing that, imho, could possibly be affected by noise levels would be his anxiety/wellbeing but you've said he never seems bothered normally by this. And I do think that using them is hindering his inclusion, and won't make any difference to his learning.

His comment about the children 'shouting' at him - I think time would be better spent trying to help him overcome any worries he has about 'shouting', and taking steps to help him cope in what are probably normal noise levels, rather than putting in an unnecessary measure which actually takes him a step back in learning how to cope.

If the school try and use the "well you said..." argument in the future, just tell them that things change, and it's always good to be flexible isn't it wink

dietstartstmoz Fri 08-Feb-13 21:14:30

Yes, you're right Bialy- it is good to be flexible. If noise does become an issue for him we may need to revisit it, but its not appropriate at this time for him to waer them
Thanks to all. I feel I am able to write a good clear and concise letter now. Sometimes its hard to be dispassionate and put your points forward when it's your baby.

AgnesDiPesto Fri 08-Feb-13 21:18:53

Well one option would be for them to take data on his noises / stims without them for a week and then take data with him wearing them and see if there is a change!
You could present them with an ABA data sheet like this
You can say once they have collected the data you can meet and analyse it (you can graph it) and see if there is a definite improvement when wearing them. You can then make an informed decision whether this is something you want to be in place longer term.
It depends how often he does it, if its too much for them to count every time they can do sampling eg during three 10 minutes assessments a day they will count how frequently / how long he does it for in those 10 minutes.
But there should also be a willingness to consider alternatives eg using positive rewards for not doing it, as that would be a better long term solution.

frazzledbutcalm Fri 08-Feb-13 21:24:48

I'm actually getting more upset as I read this... realising my dd and ds do not get any of this kind of help yet they have similar problems as posted here sad
I've let myself be fobbed off by school for years ... I've never followed my instincts... now i feel really angry and sad. I'd advise (with my clearly very little knowledge!) OP go with your instincts, you know what is right for your child.

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