Why does he cover his ears?

Monica Walker

Posted on April 03 2018

When Maddox was about 16 months old, he started to do some things that were a little different from his older brother, but to me it wasn’t alarming. At the time some of the things were kind of cute, he would walk on his toes, I didn’t think anything of this... I was a dancer as a child and we did this regularly to strengthen our calf muscles. When he got really excited about something he would flap his hands, I just thought, "how cute, he is really excited about Little Einstein’s... he loves classical music". He would cover his ears, my thoughts, "oh something must be too loud for him, we should turn the tv down". At some point though, I knew something wasn’t right, something was different. We went to the doctor on April 15, 2013 (always an easy day for me to remember...tax day) and I told the nurse my concerns and she asked me some questions,  I answered them and then the doctor came in to discuss get Maddox services through ECI (Early Childhood Intervention). They never mentioned the word autism, not once, but their demeanor was enough to worry me to no end. So I went home I Googled all the questions they asked and sure enough the word Autism kept popping up. I knew then, even though he wasn’t formally diagnosed until September 26, 2013.

The senses of children with autism sometimes can take in too little or too much information from their surroundings. Therefore they can be under sensitive or over sensitive to light, clothing, temperature or noise. If a child is takes in too little information from their environment it is called hyposensitive.  The way in which this may affect a person, is that they may not sense that the stove is hot, and burn themselves very badly by leaving their hand on a hot burner, or may go outside in very cold weather without proper clothing, and get frostbite because their sense of touch or feeling may be under active.  In contrast if a child takes in too much information from their environment they would be considered hypersensitive, the way in which this may affect a child is that if they go outside on a super sunny day and their eyes are taking it too much information it can be very challenging for them, or if they are hypersensitive to sense of touch they may not want to eat a food because the texture isn’t right for them and it can severely impact what and how they eat. In turn causing a myriad of other health and lifestyle issues. Some people with autism my have hyposensitivity to some things, and hypersensitivity to others.  Which is why EVERY SINGLE PERSON with autism is different. This is what makes it so difficult to treat and help those with autism, there is no one therapy or method that works for everyone.  Therefore it is almost like reinventing the wheel for every diagnosis, because each plan of action will be different for each child, and it may take countless tries to get it right.

Back to the question of why Maddox covers his ears?  He is definitely hypersensitive to sound.  The way in which he processes is sound is different than you or I.  However it is not always due to the volume of the sound, he can watch a fireworks show and not put his hands over his ears once, however if you turn the bath water on he always initially covers his ears.  He can listen to a song and as soon as drums or high frequency sounds comes in he immediately covers his ears.  If he is in a place with a lot of echo, he most always will cover his ears, because unlike you or I, we can drown out all of the other sounds that are coming at us.  Where as with his hypersensitivity he hears all of those sounds at once...unable to filter out sounds that are irrelevant to the task that he is preforming.  There have been studies that have shown that the fact that someone with autism may find some sounds very distracting or uncomfortable, which in turn may elicit an adverse behavioral response such as tanturms, self-injury, aggression, elopement or wandering.  These adverse behavioral responses may pose a serious safety threat, therefore it may be helpful for a parent or caregiver to keep a journal of what sounds may cause your child to react in a non-typical way.  Of course, we cannot sheild our children from all bells, sirens, animal noises etc that may be uncomfortable to them, however we may at least be able to understand them better and know the WHY??  Also, I hope that if you are a reader that does not have an autistic person that is in your everyday life, that when you see someone out and about with a child, tween, teenager or young adult that is acting a little out of the norm, that you will have a heart compassion and not a heart of judgement.  Ciao for now 💙💙. xoxo Monica

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  • Carla Machoka: April 04, 2018

    Thank you for your transparency and giving us such valuable information. I’m learning things I didn’t know reading your blog and it has been eye opening. So again, thank you for sharing.

  • August: April 03, 2018

    Really good research, keep up the good work.knowing is the key to understanding.

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