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Autism.....Holding ears

(26 Posts)
Marne Sat 09-Aug-08 17:57:04

My dd 2.5 (suspected Autism) has held her ears alot since she was a year old, in the past few months this has got worse, when we are out her hands are glued to her ears and she will only take them off to eat/drink. She has started to fall over and wont take her hands away and put them down to brake her fall. Has anyone got a ASD child which does (or has done) this? Will she grow out of it?

silverfrog Sat 09-Aug-08 18:16:59

I can't help much, but dd1 started doing this earlier this year after an ear infection. she is 4, and now holds her hands over her eards whenever something is upsetting/worrying her, so not just noise related.

It's been going on since Mrach-ish, and I am hoping hse will grow out of it too, so will watch with interest.

coppertop Sat 09-Aug-08 18:29:49

Ds1 (ASD) used to do this a lot when he was a similar age. In his case it was a mixture of not liking loud noise and having hypersensitive hands that he didn't like to use to break his fall.

If it's a noise problem it might be worth trying out some headphones to filter out some of the noise. The OT gave us some to try out and then we bought a pair online.

sphil Sat 09-Aug-08 18:31:52

DS2 started putting his hands over his ears when he was 3.5 to 4-before that he'd been oblivious to loud noises. He still does it now, but it has been greatly lessened recently by a session of Therapeutic Listening, a type of auditory integration training, which was delivered by the OT at home and school. He's on a break from it atm and I've noticed he's started putting his hands over his ears again.

Like Silverfrog's DD, he doesn't just do it as a reaction to noise - he sometimes does it if he's excited, or if he's asking for something and expecting the answer 'no' smile. I think it probably started as a response to noise and has developed into a reaction to more general sensory or emotional overload.

The other thing I'm going to try (suggested by our ABA consultant) is to record some of the sounds he dislikes (crying, screeching, metallic clanking noises, traffic) and then let him have control of the volume knob, while 'pairing' the activity with something he really loves. But 'we' (ie DH) have lost the tape recorder...

silverfrog Sat 09-Aug-08 18:34:06

dd1 does it when she is expecting the answer 'no' too, sphil smile - they really are very similar, aren't they?

sphil Sat 09-Aug-08 20:06:17

Yes - spookily so smile

amber32002 Sat 09-Aug-08 20:21:32

Holding hands against our ears is also a feeling of pressure that distracts us from the scariness going on around us. A woolly hat over the ears might have the same effect, though of course that's a bit hot in Summer. We normally do grow out of it, but the knack is to find some other way to help us cope with the stress, or help us to avoid totally stressful situations. I use the Spoon Theory to help me and adapt it so that I lose 'spoons' for things I find really stressful (the unexpected, flickering lights, weird background noise, eye contact, unexpected physical contact). It soon becomes clear when we're 'out of spoons' and are going to either play up or try to block out the overload.

anonandlikeit Sat 09-Aug-08 20:26:52

ds2 does the hands over ears thing too. Its not only a noise thing with him more of a defense or reaction to any situation he doesn't like, including when i'm telling him off.

He also doesn't put his hands down to ave himself but this isn't because they are stuck to his ears but because his reflexes are very poor, including the "save" reflex.
I think for ds2 its just a coincidence that sometimes he happens to have his hands over his ears.

deeeja Sat 09-Aug-08 20:37:40

My 5 year old with as does this.
That is interesting what you say about the hat amber, he has now taken to wearing a cap all day and won't even take it off to go to sleep. Last night I took it off him while he slept to wash it, was a bit pongy! Today I tried to give him a different one, he complained and whined that it was too big, the other one is tight I suppose that is part of the whole thing. He is either wearing the hat or has his hands over his ears.
My 3 year old hasn't learned to cover his ears yet, instead he just screams until he can get away from the noise.

amber32002 Sun 10-Aug-08 07:58:56

Deeeja, yup, it's the tightness of the cap that he's using to help him cope. I can't wear hats that might move or flap - it's like having a squirmy cat balanced on our heads and then trying to concentrate.

Most of our annoying behaviours really do have a reason, but we're usually hopeless at explaining them. smile. Even now I struggle to explain to people why I have to do things a certain way.

jimjamshaslefttheyurt Sun 10-Aug-08 09:49:15

ds1 does it, but often not to filter out noises - he squishes them which I've noticed changes the pitch of noises. A lot of the kids in his class (profoundly autistic) do the same- they don't cover them they squish them.

I know some children who really struggle with loud noises uses ear defenders when out and about.

magso Sun 10-Aug-08 11:32:37

Yes ds squishes his ears - often in difficult ( ie knocked something over,)rather than noisy situations. When I squish hard on my ears I can hear familiar low pitched internal sounds (pulse rumbling etc). Perhaps squishing ears reduces the external overload and tunes up the familiar internal sounds for ds? Many of ds schoolmates (ASD?MLD school)do this too, and others wear ear defenders in public.

amber32002 Sun 10-Aug-08 12:13:37

It's like church today...I'm trying to hear the vicar, but what I can actually hear is the baby crying at the back and the toddler running backwards and forwards and books being dropped and a house alarm going off in the distance. Oh, and every wrong note the organist makes. And I can't tune any of it out at all. Then there's the clothing still feeling scratchy, and the social stuff with the congregation, and working out which hymn or prayer I'm supposed to be saying, and when to stand up and sit down, and the handshaking and the's no wonder we end up covering our ears/hiding under the pew (not that I ever have hidden under a pew as an adult, but you know what I mean grin )

Marne Sun 10-Aug-08 17:13:39

Thanks for all your posts, i love reading your posts Amber, its so hard to understand how dd thinks, your posts are very helpful. We went out today, dd held her ears for an hour or so, i put her hood up which seemed to help. She does seem worse in places where there is alot going on (play centres etc..) but is alot better in the park or at the beach.

I was thinking of getting her some ear-muffs (like i wore as a child), not sure if you can buy them and where from, if not i will get her a nice winter hat.

I think it started as a noise thing but now she does it when excited or in a busy area.

sphil Sun 10-Aug-08 19:37:57

This is a very interesting thread. I've realised that DS2 is also sometimes squishing his ears as well as holding them. It's also definitely a response to doing something wrong - he dropped the laptop today and spent the following five minutes curled on the sofa with his hands clamped over his ears. It looked as if I'd really yelled at him, when all I'd said was 'Oh, careful DS2' . I felt very cruel!

amber32002 Sun 10-Aug-08 20:12:05

Play centres are full of children, and that means social interaction and people bashing into us, which is about as stressful as being in a war. A park or beach, unless really crowded, is far more restful as we can look at things that aren't people and are really interesting to us - plants, animals, pebbles, the sky, leaves. Though sea with big waves is a definite no. And sand is very scratchy indeed for me, for that matter.

Sphil, again I can relate to your son's reactions. If I make a mistake, I am absolutely shellshocked by it. Can't explain why, but I guess we're used to "the expected" and dropping something when we didn't expect it is a) loud and b) likely to make other people do weird things we weren't expecting either, even if it's only saying "oh careful". It's why we practice and practice particular phrases and get someone to repeat them to us - we need to be certain what they'll say, and a tiny bit at a time we get more confident about it and extend our range of things we expect.

Marne Sun 10-Aug-08 20:44:45

Amber, dd1 has AS and hates the sand touching her feet, we have to carry her over the sand and put her on a blanket, she wont walk on the sand without her feet covered.

silverfrog Sun 10-Aug-08 22:03:48

amber, yor explanation of why dd1 (and you smile) react in a seemingly over-the-top manner over small upets is really helpful.

Could I ask - what would be (in your opinion) the best way to deal with something small to me, but obviusly huge to dd1?

For example, the other day dd1(4) was trotting up and down reciting one of her books, happy as anything. dd2 (18 months) was following her, and having a great old time. Then dd1 turned round, and bumped into dd2 (it was actually dd2's fault - she wasn't looking where she was going, and got in the way). Dd2 sat down, in true bumped-toddler fashion (was not hurt at all) and wailed for a few seconds, until something else took her fancy and off she went.

Dd1 was horrified. And deeply upset. she obviously was affected by the thought that she had made dd2 cry. I kept telling her it wasn't her fault, and that dd2 was a bit silly and got in the way, was fine now, etc, but she howled (and I mean really howled) for nearly an hour. I felt so helpless not being able to comfert her fully - what happened was really not a big deal, to either me or dd2, but dd1 was beside herself.

It makes sense that it was the unexpected, and also that it was something she had been told a million times to watch out for (when dd2 was small, especially), and to her credit she does try really hard. But these small bumps are going to happen, and a few pointers on what might alleviate the distress would be handy!

amber32002 Mon 11-Aug-08 07:08:27

I can't know for sure, because we're all different in some ways, but my thoughts are these:

You say that DD1 was walking up and down reciting a book. To the NT (neurotypical, i.e. normal) way of thinking, that means we're happy. Not exactly. If we're doing something very repetitive, it tends to be because we're 'out of spoons' - in other words that something else has already happened that we found too exhausting. So we repeat ourselves over and over again and do set movements as it calms us down.

Along comes DD2 who bumps into her (which feels a bit like a major slap to us as we tend to be hypersensitive to unexpected touch), so we're already as shocked as if you'd just come over and hit us. Then DD2 make a noise that sounds like a jumbo jet taking off just next to our ears, then mum starts moving very fast and closing in on us faster than our brains can take it all in, then maybe mum looks right at us so there's the scary eye contact thing going on even if mum meant it to be kind, and she's saying something but by now our brains are Totally Out of Spoons and way, way beyond remembering how to calm ourselves down again or understanding what you're saying. So we wail, and we hate wailing as it's loud and awful, and it makes us wail even more. Yes, it's silly to do something to ourselves that we hate, but small children haven't worked out how to help themselves properly yet. Worse still, the wailing makes mum talk to us more and maybe even hug us, which is more sensory overload. All good things if you're NT, not so good if you're many children with an ASD.

Things that might just work: Watch out for when DD1 is doing something really repetetive. She might be far closer to screaming than you think, and may need quiet and rest more than you realise. If DD2 bumps into her and falls, keep all movements slow if you can, voice low, no eye contact with DD1, get her environment back to really quiet and repetitive as soon as possible. I find a thick duvet to put round us works for some of us, because it's so overwhelming that we can blank out the scary thing that just happened. Might not work for DD1 though. Other than that, make sure she's safe, quietly put her favourite repetitive things within reach, wait it out, and let her rest afterwards. Then the next day maybe work through a social story with her - pictures - so she can see what you will do if DD2 bumps into her and she can anticipate it next time. If she's good at counting, maybe teach her to count out loud when something scary happens, as it's repetitive and predictable and we can do it anywhere. It works for me (though in my head, not out loud grin )

silverfrog Mon 11-Aug-08 14:04:39

Thanks, Amber, that is helpful.

I could certainly try the duvet/blanket thing, that might help a bit.

It really was the thought that she'd hurt dd2, i think (couple with the noise dd2 was making!) as I didn't react at all - it was obvious that dd2 was ok. So no sudden movements, etc - literally all I said was "oh, oops-a-daisy, dd2, up you get" from my reclined postion on the sofa behind my book grin

do you think hugs are more sensory overload than the blanket then? as dd1 hurled herself at me and wrapped arms/legs around and clung on for dear life! But take your point about she is only little and does not know what would work to calm her, or what would make things worse.

could try a social story about it. we do have pictures around that we talk about, of both dds happy and sad (crying) etc, so could incorporate there a bit.

thanks, that has given me a few things to think about.

amber32002 Mon 11-Aug-08 14:29:04

Ah yes, I found the reclined position with a book to be most helpful when facing a son who fell down and complained about it too grin.

Yes, mostly (though not always) hugs are way more overloading than a constant heavy pressure/weight, though it's a help either way if it's someone we really trust. Some children with an ASD love hugging just about anyone, so it goes to show we're all different. But many don't.

Not sure that she would have reacted that badly to DD2 being hurt because of any great empathy. We really are usually quite bad at empathy, unfortunately, though we learn it manually like all the other social skills. I'd go for already-tired-sudden-bump-loud-screaming-panic! as the most likely explanation.

sphil Mon 11-Aug-08 14:30:40

Thanks from me too Amber - this has given me much more of an insight into why DS2 does the repeated 'I know...I know..' when he's upset. And funnily enough, although he's very cuddly, he didn't want physical comfort from me at all when he dropped the computer - his body was rigid and he was pulling away. I will definitely try the duvet thing next time.

amber32002 Mon 11-Aug-08 17:25:29

That's possibly the difference between him asking for and expecting a hug, and someone else offering an unexpected one when he's already stressed out. I'm ok if it's hubby or son doing the hugging as they know to build up to it for a couple of seconds, not surprise me instantly. If it's a stranger or if I'm already overloaded, I'll go as stiff as a proverbial board and silently panic at any touch at all.

sphil Mon 11-Aug-08 20:11:00

That's true - he asks for 'big hugs' the whole time, but often doesn't respond if we ask - or pulls away.

Although he's a very affectionate child, he's very standoffish in the mornings - doesn't want any physical contact at all, doesn't make much eye contact and is generally much less 'interactive'. Any ideas why this might be?

LeonieD Tue 12-Aug-08 09:40:30

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