Misophonia is most likely a neurological condition in which the sufferer has negative reactions to sounds. It causes an immediate fight, flight or freeze responses. These responses cannot be controlled any more than the weather, but you can prepare yourself for the storm.
As parents we want our children to be happy, healthy and well-adjusted individuals. Unfortunately, that does not always happen, but we can do everything in our power to help them cope with various situations.
This article is going to be talking quite a bit about safety. Your home is a safe place, in a nice neighborhood, surrounded by family that loves and cares for each other, childproof and safety locks on the cabinets and drawers, you have all bases covered. Do you, really? There is a difference between being safe and feeling safe and that is what I would like you to focus on because living in a world where you are constantly on in fight or flight mode does not FEEL like a safe place. How can you make your child feel safe?
You have observed some obvious triggers for your child whether they got angry, frustrated, covered their ears, ran out of the room, etc. Make a list of those sounds, their reactions and keep a running log of these things. No one knows your child better than you do. Knowing triggers can help you be prepared for various situations. For example, if eating sounds is a trigger, it might be best to skip having dinner at a restaurant, opting for take-out instead. If eating dinner as a family is something you normally do, it is ok to allow your Miso child to eat in another room, or to allow the television or music to play in the background.
When you live with someone with sensory issues, forcing certain behaviors can be devastating to the child and they will not feel safe, not even in their own home. Your child trusts you and expects you to protect him and he needs your guidance until he can protect himself. Never think that exposing your child to triggers will “toughen them up”, not only will it make the triggers worse, he may end up resenting you for it.
Take a moment and think about what things make your child feel comfortable. Does he have a cozy blanket or favorite stuffed animal? Do they like to color, play with blocks, play-doh or Legos? Is there a song or songs that soothe them? I am referring to younger children, but the same concepts will work for older children as well as adults, you just need to make them age-appropriate.
I think it is very important to create a special “ME TIME” space for your child. This does not involve purchasing expensive things, this is about taking a section of his room and making a safe haven for him to retreat when things are overwhelming. I do not want you to think of this as a time out because it is not a punishment at all. When you see your child start to get overwhelmed, take him to the designated place. For younger children you can take them in their room, they may want mommy/daddy cuddles to soothe them, or 5 minutes snuggling with their favorite doll or stuffed animal. Just a few minutes to decompress will help so much, possibly followed by a quiet activity. Have a juice box and finger paint together. Participating in a fun creative activity will divert his attention from the negative feelings, provide an outlet for the negative feelings as well as strengthen your bond. In a nutshell, you want to work on his other senses; looking at pretty pictures, using his hands to mold play-doh or sand, anything to take the focus away from the sound.
Children (especially younger children) do not equate the sounds with being triggered. They just know the sound makes them very upset and angry and they want it to stop but they may not know how to explain it and that is okay, this is a learning process for you. If you see your child being triggered, remove him from the situation before things escalate. Perhaps he is watching a show on tv and something triggers him, hit the mute button. Divert his attention away from the trigger. When you consistently remove your child from the trigger, he will learn “I need to step away” and calm down. Believe me, these habits will be very useful tools that he can use until they discover a treatment or cure.
The next thing I want to talk about is violence. Violence is not acceptable, BUT it is not uncommon for that fight response to make a child want to hit something or someone. Children lack the self-control needed to abstain from this action and may hit their sibling because they coughed too loud. Remove your child from that situation. Personally, I do not think to punish him is the answer because it is a Misophonic response. He just needs some coping skills to redirect that rage. When he is calm, you should address the fact that it is not acceptable to hit. (As an adult sometimes, I have difficulty abstaining from throat punching someone for breathing wrong)
An occupational therapist may also help provide some very useful coping skills that you can use with your child. The goal is to make a safe place for your child as provide the tools and lessons for him to be able to self-soothe so he feels safe.Looking for more information on misophonia? Consider attending our workshops at Misophoniaeducation.com