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Sensory processing and unintentional sounds

"The door is too loud." These were the words said by my son the other day. He was very dysregulated, and I was very impressed with the fact that he could even verbalise the problem. I asked him what would help, and eventually, he put the television on and gradually became more regulated. I can completely understand how, at some times, the door is too loud or even silence is too loud.


The world is a noisy place, and we can often fixate on the obvious noise that might cause discomfort. The unexpected siren, a car back firing, children playing or the dreaded hand drier. But how often do we consider the quiet noises that might be amplified in our brains?


It got me thinking about a piece of music which I used as a teacher. It was composed by John Cage and is entitled 4′33″. It became very controversial because most of the audience argued that it was silence. They are correct. There is not a single not played. The point that Cage was making was that it isn’t silence or, more precisely, ambient sound. It was “the absence of intended sound." It was always a fun lesson when I would play a film of this piece being performed and ask the children to write down the sounds they heard. It was fascinating to see the contrasts of responses. 


How, at times, I would love to live in a world that was absent of intended sounds. We would realise how much unintended sound there is in the world, which can really affect autistic and ADHD people. We just dont hear it over the intended sound.


How much we can all learn in supporting neurodivergent people in recognising the uniqueness of sensory processing, not only in each person but also at any given time. As for the living room door, it hasn’t caused any trouble since.



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