Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Auditory Input Sensitivity Pros and Cons

Pairing auditory and visual input to calm Lincoln in the car

When our third child was born, I believed what people say about the third kid being a piece of cake and told myself that understanding the sleep milestones would set me up for even better success at teaching my child to sleep and that knowing so much more about sensory systems would help me set up an even better environment for his learning, play and comfort.

I still do think that the third time around, many many things are so much easier.  I was much less overwhelmed knowing about baby sleep and sensory systems as well as developmental milestones, diaper brands and sizes, pumping, when to start them on solids, how to identify acid reflux and food allergies, packing a diaper bag of some sort and so forth.  I was still in for a surprise when I realized in the hospital that our newborn son did not sleep the way I remembered my other two newborns who slept through anything.  In fact Adelyn, our second, was so incredibly hard to wake for feedings that we had every light in the room at full brightness, voices, music, and her down to the diaper.

Lincoln startled at the drop of a feather. Surely the next day he would sleep better.  Maybe it is just day one.  Was that how it was 5 1/2 years ago when Adelyn was born? As we continued throughout that day and the next I realized that it was not just day 1 and he did not stay asleep well either. Zachary didn't stay asleep well in the hospital either, but it was not due to sounds and startling like Lincoln.  When the nurse came in to do the hearing screening I said, "Oh he DEFINITELY hears." So the newborn sleep phase as I remember it, did not happen.  Lincoln went through the phase of staying asleep for long periods of time, but we were tiptoeing around him like we had a pack of sleeping wolves.

He has grown used to many sounds in the environment we provide, especially our immediate family voices in a variety of emotions, but many sounds still startle or make him uncomfortable.  I know that most babies find the hair dryer and vaccuum distasteful so some of this is typical, but I find his sensitivity to be more extreme.  New discoveries of issues began to be uncovered about the time that he became 4 months old. He is not happy in a room of chattering mothers, especially when he is tired or hungry which makes moms meetings difficult to handle. One of the most recent discoveries is that Lincoln is not cool with other people expressing their emotion of laughter when something is funny if you are going to exceed his decibel level comfort.  In his opinion, if you are going to find something funny and laugh, you should probably retrain yourself or better yet stuff a sock in your cheek for the time being. It does not seem to be an issue for those of us he is used to being around.

I have determined to myself that Lincoln's auditory system is sensitive, but I believe it is due to having his defenses up against anyone or anything unfamiliar that could compromise his comfort or safety.  In other words, anxiety to the unknown. I think this because he has become used to the loud sounds that any of us in the immediate family make.  He watches our facial expressions when he hears the sounds and determines whether or not it is good or bad.  Zachary was not quite to the extreme that Lincoln is, but he also was a little sensitive and a little anxious as a baby.  It may just be something that Lincoln will grow out of.  Zac did and has overcome some anxiety with some assistance from us (he does still use headphones to mow the lawn like I do).

A pro to Lincoln being so aware of auditory input is that he is mesmerized when I sing to him.  During car rides of all lengths, especially the first 6 months, I spent a good deal of time singing to him. Sometimes it calmed him enough to get him to sleep.  But not always!!!! He finally, at 6 1/2 months learned to fall asleep in the car without assistance, praise the Lord!! Of course, there has been almost nothing consistent about his sleep except that for the first 5 months, he only stayed awake an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes between naps.  In the early months a Disney Lullaby Cd with arrangements by Fred Molin, worked at calming him in the car. For the most part, live, vocal singing by voices he recognizes has worked the best in calming him.

Car Ride Torture
The kids have joined in helping, especially on car rides.  On our Christmas trip, we spent about 45 minutes singing familiar tunes over and over to Lincoln during the first part of our journey.   Unfortunately, it seems that being strapped down to a seat in a moving object makes children angry and frustrated.  I thought we would never make it to my parents house in Houston and then my grandparents in Louisiana.  We had split the trip up in two days. I was absolutely DREADING the 7 hour trip getting home.  Scott took the train to meet us in Louisiana and as soon as I saw him, before "hello" and "how was your trip" I said, "I want to fly home when we leave next week.  Just me and Lincoln."  As it turned out, the 1 way ticket would be $600.  We were driving. Actually, we were riding. I sat next to Lincoln on the drive home. I patted the back of his car seat to lull him to sleep when it was time to sleep.

Paring Sound and Visuals
By the last couple of hours of the journey toys were not enough to keep him happy, nor were books and my beloved singing trick. Finally, I picked up a book which contained a song as lyrics and sang it to him while I showed the pictures.  He was enthralled.  Thank the Lord. I was spared. Why in the world had I not pieced this together? I mean after all that time studying sensory integration for music therapy?? Hello!! So this is how we made it home the last two hours.

Today, at 7 months, he likes exploring toys a lot. He likes exploring books a lot.  He loves family members singing to him!  But his favorite is someone singing lyrics to pictures in books.

Sometimes it does seem like the road never ends.  Each day though, we grow wiser as parents.  We learn a little each day.  And sometimes we figure out solutions! Temporary and permanent! And our babies grow.  They develop.  Old phases pass and new ones come up.  My hope for others is to know that comfort can be found.  Comfort and peace to all as we live, love, laugh, struggle and resolve.

There is a cross, but there is also resurrection.  Happy Easter 2016.