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Q&A: Autistic Student Over-Responsive to Sounds?


Can you provide suggestions for a high-functioning autistic student over-responsive to sounds I am treating? He avoids walking in the halls when the bells ring, avoids going to the bathroom in school to avoid flushing the toilet, and gets very anxious if it begins to rain and thunder. We are considering sensory activities. What do you think?

Gwen’s Answer:

Do you see other signs of over-responsiveness (lights, smells, food textures, touch)? If so, I set up a good sensory diet designed to be calming to the nervous system overall (red arrow activities).  However, I would also make sure there are appropriate accommodations in place such as

  • noise-canceling headphones
  • permission to wear an iPod in the hall and bathroom

Fill out the Sensory Symptoms Checklist or another sensory assessment tool, and see if anything else shows up. For example, if you see that he is UNDER-responsive to proprioceptive input, try letting him wear a weighted vest while in the halls. This will be likely help in addition to the more specific accommodations for auditory sensitivity.

You may also want to check into Sheila Frick’s Therapeutic Listening program for him.

Best Wishes,