My five year old, Mr. Sensitive, has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), serious anxiety, and Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.  We’ve recently made the decision to say screw-it-all to the jobs, healthcare and services the city has to offer and go live in a small town in Ontario.  Why on earth would we do that, you ask.

In the past 6 months in the city we’re now on our SECOND behaviour therapist referral for Mr. Sensitive.  His SPD and anxiety transform him into a small, worried tornado, chucking toys and trucks throughout our home (a large apartment).  He yells, cries and whines his way through the day, stressed to the max by elevator doors that might close and elevator floors that do not line up.

He has done some weird compulsive things, like organizing the candy bars in grocery stores and refused to leave until the bars were ‘right.’  He does not do this every day, but those days he’s ‘stuck’ in having to do something – like shutting a gate at a farm – stick out in memory for his insistence, intensity and overall strangeness.  Our doctors and behaviour therapists insist it’s a manifestation of his anxiety, not autism.

We’ve just returned from visiting my parents in small-town Ontario, the place we want to move to.  During our visit my parents stayed overnight at a friend’s home.  Mr. Sensitive announced that since Granny and Grandpa had moved out (!), we were moving into their home.  Mr. Sensitive also repeated how much he wanted a house.  Over and over again.  He happily looked at real estate listings with us.

Mr. Sensitive would walk outside at various points throughout the day and sigh, ‘Ah, a kid can really breathe out here.’  He watched the stars and humming birds.  He looked for bats.  He loved playing in the dirt, a kiddie pool, the sand at the beach, and going fishing.  For a sensory kid like him, life in the outdoors was nirvana.

He would stop playing and listen – to the sounds of leaves rustling, the patter of raindrops, and the buzz of cicadas (leading to a discussion about the lifecycle of the cicada, what they eat and how they protect themselves).  For a person who wears noise cancelling headphones to school, sound became a source of wonder and pleasure, not pain.

During our few days at my parent’s place, Mr. Sensitive became a whole new kid, one we had forgotten.  He was fun to be around, and full of interesting points of conversation.  I realized he is a smart kid, something we neglect when we’re battling behaviour.  Transitions were less difficult (I won’t say easier) and he was happier.

One our first day back to the city (aka home for now) I wanted to take Mr. Sensitive out to walk the dogs with me.  He could bring his toy cars to play in the dirt.  Did I mention transitions are a problem?  He had a complete meltdown.  I managed to drag him, shoes and clothes on, still yelling how much he hates me, outside.

Once outside he was a different kid.  He drove his toy cars on some rocks and we headed to a nearby school yard with a dirt pile in it.  Mr. Sensitive drove his cars through puddles and dirt while the dogs toddled about.  I sat on the pavement and watched.

He found a fossil, and waved it proudly.  We looked at insects, and discussed how they protect themselves.  We also looked at clover and dandelions, and discussed how they don’t protect themselves.

It struck me how noisy the city is.  We live on a major road, one so busy and loud you cannot have a conversation on a cell phone while you’re walking down the street.  From where I sat I could hear the roar of traffic drifting around the school building behind me, the beep of a garbage truck backing up a block away, the hum of the school’s ventilation system, and the roar of a train zooming along the tracks about a block away.  When the noise died down, I heard the buzz of cicadas.

Mr. Sensitive is hypersensitive to sound.  The barrage of noise is a stressor on top of sensory and anxiety-provoking stressors.  Imagine trying to stack a bunch of mismatched dishes on top of each other.  Teacups, saucers, plates, balanced higgledy pigglety.  They slid and skitter, and eventually fall.  Some folks call this ‘stack attack’ – the stacking of stressors leads to a meltdown.

What if you remove some of those dishes?  Reduce the stress of a crazy-busy city life and reduce the stress of noise overload.  Move to a small town.  Get outside, listen to the birds, the breeze, and the cicadas.


About Angela

Super-powered, Special Ed teacher and special needs mama to FOUR (!) children with an assortment of special needs; including Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and Prader Willi Syndrome. Our family features a heavy dose of good ol' ADHD). I blog about our halfpastnormal life.
This entry was posted in Big City to Small Town, disABILTY, Halfpastnormal is who we are, Sensory Processing Disorder and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Noise

  1. Nicole says:

    This makes perfect sense to me! As a highly sensitive, non-autistic person I have moments of being utterly overwhelmed by the clamour of the city, and regularly wonder why I stay at all. So I can imagine how much worse it would be for someone with even more sensitivity to the world, who has difficulty processing all that sensory input.

    I tried a float tank session sometime last year and came out of it with a lesson: for me it’s not a question of reducing sensory input , but having the right kind of input. The noise of traffic, the hum of air conditioning and computers, telephones, cars honking, etc might not be all that loud but they’re a constant barrage.

    On the other hand, I can go to the beach and relax quicker and more thoroughly than anything I can find in the city. There is still plenty of simultaneous sensory stimulation there – the texture of sand, the sound of the waves, the breeze, the cry of the gulls, the warmth of the sun, etc. But it’s a very different sensory experience, far more pleasant.

    • Angela says:

      That’s exactly how I feel. City life is fun for a while, but I love the outdoors myself, whether at the beach or camping. My son is now asking to go to the beach at least once a day. Iy’s something he needs.

  2. HFLifeMom says:

    I’ve wondered about this with my son. The world is overwhelming for him and we exacerbate it by living in a city.

    • Angela says:

      It’s taken me a long while to realize how overwhelming the world is for my son. We started with an OT assessment last fall, but he wore noise cancelling headphones and had strong tactile avoidance behaviour that we just adjusted to for years before that. The OT helped clarify the issues he faces and offered some strategies (i.e. therapeutic brushing, etc)

  3. Melbin says:

    Hello, I have nominated you for the Super Sweet Award. Details here;

  4. funnygurl2 says:

    Hey Angela,
    If you ever need help finding a real estate agent, feel free to call my husband: Jason Stites 517-759-8591. While he is located in the USA, he is part of a network that could help recommend a realtor in the area you want a house in, even in Ontario (I checked with him:)

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