Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Was Mozart afraid of The Dryer Monster??


Today I took Munchkin out for lunch with a friend and was very pleasantly surprised how our trip into town went. We even managed to squeeze a quick browse around a clothes shop without any major incidents. Munchkin happily stood peeling stickers off all the new lingerie that had been displayed while I tried on some coats beside her. I had to let go of her hand to take on and off the selected coats that I had dragged over to the bra and knickers and she was very content to stay put while I did my impromptu fittings. I decided on a lovely new grey jacket and that was placed into the basket alongside several candles, some underwear, a schoolbag and some Christmas cards that Munchkin had discretely swiped and placed there as we went through the aisles. We only had two incidents in the shop where she bolted so it was a good day to try for lunch out.

My friend and I decided on a lovely restaurant we know were there is seating under the stair area next to the bathrooms where Munchkin could be contained in a high chair with a harness and we settled ourselves down and waited patiently for the lasagne to be dropped down to us. All the time, Munchkin entertained herself nicely with the sugar sachets and other condiments... All going fabulously... She even ate some chunky chips (usually rejected as MaccyDees skinny fries are the acceptable ones...)

I decided then that I would take her to the bathroom as it had been a while since she had been and I didn't wish to be frantically trying to dry out a car seat! My guard must have been extremely relaxed as I went straight past the wheelchair accessible toilet I would normally have gone into with her and went to the ladies toilets instead. Whilst she sat on the toilet, another lady had finished her business and washed her hands.... oh no.... how could I have been so stupid?? As the hand dryer went off just outside the cubicle, Munchkin threw herself, terrified and semi naked into the safety of my arms, screeching, panic stricken with the widest eyes you could ever imagine... I should have known better as have had her climb onto my shoulders in a cubicle as she waited for me to finish on the toilet before when a dryer has gone off outside the door. Needless to say, I think a visit to that particular restaurant in the future will be doubtful as she will associate it not with the pleasant and relaxed lunch we had, but the "Dryer Monster" which is what I imagine she thinks it is.

The "Dryer Monster" is not uncommon I believe and have heard it attacks many children on the spectrum. It has been known to frequent all corners of the globe! It particularly likes those with sensitive hearing and is related to the ferocious "Hairdryer Monster"...

Sensory issues affect a huge number of children with autism. All the senses can be amplified beyond what we ourselves could tolerate. This was explained so eloquently by Hammie in her blog Hammiesblog

"Autism is a sensory disability in which everything your child sees, hears, feels, tastes and smells is distorted. They may see every strand of hair on your head individually with more detail than a Dandruff commercial, hence the need to push your hair off your face. They may taste food in individual components that make the slightest change to the recipe seem like an entirely different food. Touch can be too light to feel or too intense to bear, or both! And sound most unfortunately can be very distorted, either because they hear everything and cannot tune in to what’s important, ie. your voice, or because they only hear the higher sounds or the lower sounds that are in their environment."

I have been lucky that even without any official Occupational Therapy, my own home program that I implemented has been very successful in desensitising Munchkin to a lot of her sensitivities, touch especially was difficult for her, but now will actively seek contact with me. I have noticed however, that her sensitivity to noise seems to be increasing, not hugely, but is increasing. She will several times a day (well several is a bit of an understatement... several hundred times a day!) "Whats that noise...." It could be a clock ticking, or a washing machine in another room or the neighbours dog barking, or the wind blowing etc.... I've also noticed that she is getting more interested in musical notes, particularly mid range tones. While at my mothers house, she has a piano and unlike most children her age, she does not bang and clatter the keys, rather will press them gently, finding the notes that please her best. She does the usual press every key in sequence but then will place both hands palm down on the ivory keys and press several keys with each hand until she finds some that sound pleasing to her ear and holds them down as the notes resonate through her hands... Perhaps I have a budding pianist on my hands...



11 comments:

Hammie said...

Definitely pursue that Petunia. Music is a great way to desensitise them to high and low sounds in the environment. Start looking for classical cds in op shops and record stores and play the low bassey stuff as well as high stuff to help her work through it.

As for hand dryers, you never really get past that. Bratty was semi-trained when we took her to Wagamama for lunch. She needed to go so badly but with no disabled facilities she refused to use the main bathroom for exactly the reason you describe, and ended up relieving herself lavishly and copiously in the corner of the restaurant. Cue a swarm of wait-staff with blue paper towels and neutral expressions. They got a huge tip that day but we never brought Bratty again. Everywhere we go I use hand gels when we get out of a public bathroom, which thanks to swine flu are now available every where. She still hates hand dryers to this day.

But consider this - I heard of a student doing her thesis at Trinity who wanted to address this issue and she came up with roll-play with puppets. The handdryer was the "dragon" and the hands were hand puppets who role played some kind of story that neutralised the threat, making it a "friendly" dragon.
Worth thinking about?
xx

Anonymous said...

my son is ten does the same thing with piano but we never conected it to his diagnosis thanks just goes to show we are always learing about them thanks

grufalomum said...

Yep I have 1 too that freaks at the dryer monster & has done since he was several months old. Also the hoover monster & to a lesser extent the hairdryer monster !!!
I believe you can desensitise by recording the "offending" noise and playing it back at a low level while the child is doing something they like and then increasing the increase volume over a period of time. Mind you not sure how you would record the noise of a toilet handryer without getting VERY strange looks???? :)

Hammie said...

The iPhone has a voice recorder! xx

Patsyperdu said...

I remember an incident in the Louvre where Paul had to bring Dr. Destructo into the men's toilets to change him because there were no baby changing, this is ages ago, way before we knew what was going on. I was waiting outside and I literally thought that someone was murdering the doc he was screaming so much.

Such an excellent blog, the whole sensory thing is very hard to understand but you have certainly helped! The Doc does something very similar with his keyboard, kind of makes sense now.

Jean said...

yup...hairdryer monster here too...without doubt they are the work of the devil.
it's funny here with the hoover. when i start it up, Bob makes like an olympic sprinter and legs it at warp speed, slamming closed every available door between me and him. But, within 5 mins he's sitting on the damn thing! doesn't make for easy hoovering, but at least he's having fun!
Yeah...go with the music petunia! Bob's big sis recently started piano lessons and we now have a keyboard in the playroom. Bob is very interested!
Cool post, as ever, missus
XXX

Anonymous said...

Button gas always loved music, he sang before he talked, and if he's doing anything that stresses him he sings about it "This is the way we go to the shops" etc, it's such a great stress reliever for him. As far as the dryer monster goes - may the fleas of a thousand camels nest in the armpits of whoever invented them! They are pure evil! Can't count how many pefrfectly good days out have been ruined by someone drying their hands! Lovely post again ,by the way xx
Tazzy

3laine said...

Brillant post, Petunia! And one which I can relate to so well. I'm absolutely terrified of ambulances myself, the combination of the flashing blue light (it just has to be BLUE doesn't it! - I wouldn't so much mind any other colour) and the siren can cause me to have a panic attack. Daniel's sensory issues aren't so bad, with him it's more certain smells and foods that he is quite fussy about. I suppose sensory issues affect us all in different ways. xx 3laine

Anonymous said...

sensory issues were hardest for me to come to terms with..didnt get it...he used to love me blowing the air on his face when i dried my hair...then one day i turned on hairdryer and he ran out of room hands to ears humming...then it grew to hand dryers, hoover, lawnmower...even tv sometimes when prog he loved came on he wud run out of room then peep in when he knew part he loved was finished...hates when its windy or raining..hates the feelin on his face...and as we discovered in eurodisney he hated the rides in the dark...
def chase after the music thing...when emmett was at my cousins wedding 2yrs ago he found his way to the drums the band settin up and started to play...perfect beat...everyone taut was the drummer warmin up til they saw him chase emmett away...several times...eventually took the drumsticks off him and he went up with 2 straws lol...got him his own small set but had no interest..havent given up tho..santa gonna bring real ones this yr now we have playroom..great post petunia..
sesame...

Casdok said...

C is very noise sensitive and in fingers are always in his ears - until he hears loud music and the louder the better!

Anonymous said...

Another dryer/toilet flush/hoover monster victim here. This was the first flashing red light (sorry for the pun) we should have spotted when he was small, but we didn't. These days we can get away with a warning -"There will be a loud noise from the coffee mill, so if you want go to the sitting room?". He is out like a flash and never forgets to close the door behind himself!
xx Truf

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