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23 July 2010


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I wonder why cries of distress, coughs, sneezes and other involuntary or nearly involuntary sounds make some people with autism angry?
We had that problem in my classroom where D., a large, aggressive teen would bunch up his fists and threaten to hit his much smaller classmates whenever they coughed or, in the case of B., started singing. B. was fascinated by the then-popular TV show "Sha Na Na" and he tended to burst into "Goodnight Sweetheart" complete with "duh doo doo do dos" every few minutes.
The scenario went: cough. Threat by D., Cries of protest from the offending cougher, More threats, Redirection by myself or an aide, A few minutes of quiet industrious work, A chorus of "Goodnight Sweetheart," from B., Threats by D., etc.

Kristina Chew

I've thought of coughs and sneezes as simply being unpleasant, fingernails-on-the-chalkboard sort of noises----sources of sensory distress?


Charlie's doing very well with crowds, unexpected noises, and even waiting times. Do you think he could handle Great Adventure or something like it? Maybe the Safari Park - he could ride in the white car and see the giraffes, baboons, gazelles, camels and such?


Fingernails on the chalkboard indeed, except the one that gets to me is the sound of chewing, especially crunchy things. You never know. :-)

Kristina Chew

I'm wondering if Charlie doesn't like that sort of sound either----

I've wondered about places like Great Adventure. Charlie's never exactly been into animals---he's still wary of unleashed dogs!


Yes, the sound of someone sneezing isn't the most pleasant noise. My middle son tells me I "sneeze wrong" because my sneezes sound more like coughs. However, not being autistic he doesn't get angry or upset at me for cough-sneezing, just bemused.
It's a shame that Charlie's first reaction when you're injured and cry out involuntarily isn't concern for your well being. I'm sure he loves you but I suppose the unpleasantness of the sounds of distress overrides any feelings of empathy. Or am I wrong?

Kristina Chew

I guess I don't see it as his response (of distress) overriding anything like empathy---I do think he senses and feels our distress, but his timeline for expressing that is different!

He's much better about hearing coughs and sneezes now. Often we give him a 'warning' and that has helped.

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by Kristina Chew …………………………

Kristina Chew

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