Sleep and Auditory Sensitivity for Kids with Special Needs

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For many children with special needs, being sensitive to sounds can be a problem when trying to sleep well.

But, what does auditory sensitivity look like? Here are some common signs:

  • Bothered or irritated by particular sounds
  • Wakes easily at night to sounds
  • Sounds can be painful to your child
  • Increased hyperactivity
  • Constantly tuning out
  • Trouble locating where a sound comes from
  • Behavior changes in crowds or around many people
  • Needing warning before a sound is made
  • Delay in responding to speech
  • Being easily distracted
  • Responding to sounds before others can hear them
  • …and more!

If your child has any of the above issues (or most these issues), it’s no surprise that sleep is difficult!

Your child’s brain is literally not able to turn off — it’s picking up all and any sounds in the environment.

Although we can go into a very deep sleep at night, we are still aware of what is happening around us. And, we have to be! When we were still roaming and not settled in houses, we had to be aware of potential danger around us. For example, if a sabertooth tiger came into the cave you’d want to wake up, right? Otherwise, you’d be that cat’s midnight snack.

This internal alarm system is hidden in the lowest levels of the brain. This survival response is often called “fight, flight, or freeze”.

The problem for a kid with auditory sensitivity is that their brain perceives every sound as threat. We may not think twice about the heater kicking in at night, but for your child — that could sound absolutely terrifying!

So, your child is literally not able to fully get asleep. That internal alarm system is constantly going off at night. And, that causes a whole lot of sleep debt and overtiredness. Unfortunately, this sleep deprivation also makes it harder and harder for these kids to regulate.

It’s a double whammy for kids with this kind of sensitivity.

So, as a sleep coach for kids with special needs this is a problem we need to help parents solve! So, where do you begin?

Don’t add to the chaos — eliminate white noise machines.

In most cases, the white noise machine is just one more noise that your child is experiencing. You’re better off eliminating it to see if your child can settle better. At most, run a fan in your child’s room. This is a slightly different frequency that can usually replace the white noise machine.

Shut out other sounds.

There are two ways to do this:

  1. Use silicone ear plugs. This is a very easy way to cut out background noise for sleep at night. These can mold to the shape of your child’s ear and they are more comfortable because they don’t expand.
  2. Sound proof your child’s room. This is for my kids with extreme sensitivity, and those who absolutely won’t tolerate the ear plugs. But, this can help with eliminating that background noise.

Provide the right stimulation.

If a child has any sensitivity to sounds, it’s important that there is the right kind of stimulation to teach their brain to perceive frequencies better. This will give the brain the tools it needs so a better night’s rest is possible.

Now, there are many auditory stimulation programs out there. My recommended program is the Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP). This protocol is ideal for a few reasons:

  • It addresses and greatly reduces sensitivity to sounds.
  • It can help to decrease anti-social, hyperactive, or repetitive behaviors
  • Safe and Sound helps to increase speech
  • Addresses anxiety and nervousness.
  • This protocol is only 10 days at a time before another round needs to be done (so it’s time efficient!)

So whether you’ve never done, or tried several different auditory programs Safe and Sound has shown to me time and time again that it can have lasting and profound benefits for hearing, sleep, and more!

To learn more about this protocol, and to learn from the best SSP practitioner I know check out this site for more details!

Not sure how to get your child with ASDADD/ADHDTrisomy 21Cerebral palsy, and/or developmental delays sleeping better? Melissa Doman and her team develop individualized programs for kids with special needs to sleep great. Contact us today to learn more!

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