Too Loud

by Pia

This is new for J-man.

And if you were just observing this behavior in isolation, you might think that he is having a sensory reaction to the volume of the movie.  He has done this “hands-over-ears-too-loud-too-loud” behavior again and again over the past several weeks to different movies and at different times.  He can be perfectly happy and content with the volume at one moment and suddenly “too-loud-too-loud.” So is this some kind of new hypersenstivity to sound?

I don’t think so.  And here is why…

In this particular clip, we are watching Cars 2.  Mater, the best friend to Lighting McQueen, is on the phone with one of his competitors arguing about how great Lighting McQueen is.  Eventually, McQueen gets on the phone and has a little verbal sparring with the other car.  It is a low key, kinda cute exchange.

J-man also does “too-loud-too-loud” to the Lion King.  It is always at the same scene…. no, not one of the many scary-ish battle scenes.  He does “too-loud” when Mufasa lectures Simba about being responsible.  He does “too loud” to the movie Cats and Dogs when the evil white Cat is about to get a bath from the maid.  And he does “too loud” to Happy Feet when Mumble is being lectured by his dad.  And when Lilo’s sister yells at her in Lilo and Stitch.

I don’t think this is about volume, do you?

There is a lot of controversy about whether or not people on the spectrum are senstive to emotions of others and exhibit empathy.  It is a topic that generates a lot of discussion.  Well, my 4 year old ASD boy covers his ears and is upset when the (negative) emotional content of a movie becomes too much. What do you think that means?

About the Author: Pia is the mother of J-man, a boy on the autism spectrum. She describes herself as “a fierce protector, fiery advocate, and in desperate need of a nap.” She has a PhD in Developmental Psychology and works as a NICU nurse. This piece fist appeared on her blog, The Crack and the Light, is reprinted here by permission.


7 thoughts on “Too Loud

  1. Catsidhe says:

    I do this myself quite often. It’s mostly in sitcoms (I rarely watch drama) where you know that someone is going to say or do the wrong thing, and everyone will be confused and embarrassed and angry, and there’s no way out, and it’s an almost visceral sense of pain to listen to that, so I close my eyes and put my fingers in my ears and wait for it to be over.

  2. Brenda says:

    Oh, I do too. In fact, I actively search out spoilers on the internet for anything (tv shows, movies, books) that I want to see or read, to make sure I can either avoid, or prepare for those exact kinds of emotional pitfalls. As an example, I had to stop watching the tv show “Once Upon a Time”, even though I was really enjoying it, because they killed a character I had gotten emotionally attached to. Fortunately I learned about it before it happened (thank goodness for those spoilers!), so I didn’t get blindsided by that. I’ve also gotten a lot of teasing, because I skim the endings of books for exactly that same reason. And I’m with J-man! I don’t like the parts where people get yelled at or lectured either!!

  3. Kobi says:

    I had never realised it, but I do it too. When I’m watching a film and there are such scenes, usually I cover my ears or do something similar, because I don’t want to see that (merely because that would be too much for me to “feel”). I mean, it’s just as if I don’t want other people to be in a certain situation, in which I would feel bad myself. Something like. This is new to me, since I hadn’t thought about it before.

    Thanks for sharing the text! And thanks for sharing your experience, J-man and mommy of J-man! 🙂

  4. usethebrainsgodgiveyou says:

    Too cool. You love for J-man makes you seek out the answers! This is a very good insight to how he ticks.

  5. Ashmire says:

    Ditto on the searching out spoilers before watching! Too much stress otherwise! And yep, do not like seeing people hurt and embarrassed even when it’s supposedly funny.

  6. Over Christmas, my totally non-autistic niece (age four) was between her father and my grandmother as my grandmother told her father about a car crash she’d recently been in. My niece was covering her ears in the same way that I used to do when things were too loud. I had been getting pretty auditorily overstimulated that day, so I figured she must be reacting to the noise level in the room and asked her if people were being too loud. “No,” she responded, “I’m scared by Babi’s story.”

    My niece is not autistic, but if that’s her response to hearing upsetting things, why can’t it also be something autistic kids do in the same situation? Just because they also do the same thing when the noise level is too loud doesn’t mean that that’s the only time they might want to cover their ears.

  7. Lizbeth says:

    No, I don’t think this is about the sound at all. This is similar to what my son does when watching a movie or TV. When I watch him, its as if the emotions are too much for him to take in and he’s trying to block it out. Almost as if it’s too much to process. He doesn’t want the TV character to be sad or in pain and he tries to block it out and in the process almost feels their pain. Thing is, I know he’s getting upset and feeling their emotions. He just doesn’t know how to handle it.

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