Understanding and Managing
Misophonia (Sound Sensory Overload)

Many children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have aversions to certain sounds, but some may have severe sound-induced sensory overload, or misophonia. This occurs when certain noises invoke emotions and behaviors, like anger and screaming, that can prevent the person from coping until the noise stops.

Symptoms of misophonia

What is Misophonia?

A type of sound sensitivity disorder, misophonia causes the brain to trigger a fight-or-flight response upon hearing a particular noise. The exact cause of misophonia is unknown, but it’s believed to be influenced by neurodevelopmental disorders, mental or physical trauma, and conditioning over time.

Some symptoms of misophonia are:

  • Crying or screaming
  • Covering ears
  • Running away or wanting to flee
  • Disorientation
  • Force or violence towards people nearby
Typical misophonia trigger noises

How Can Misophonia Present Extra Challenges for Your Child?

Typical misophonia trigger noises are common parts of everyday life, such as chewing, coughing, sniffling, sneezing, throat clearing, tapping, and scratching. This can make going to school and hobbies more difficult and stressful for a child with misophonia. When a child has autism along with misophonia, the intense response to auditory stimuli can be even more overwhelming, especially in an unfamiliar environment. However, misophonia in children with ASD can be managed with the proper techniques, tools, and activities to interrupt the brain’s noise-to-response cycle.

Avoid triggering misophonia

Ways to Avoid Triggering Misophonia

One strategy to help a child with ASD and misophonia is to avoid their problem sounds altogether, thus preventing the serious emotional and physical response. The first step is to identify the noises that cause them intense distress, and then start building an action plan to steer clear when the time comes. It’s sometimes impossible to prevent certain noises, but adequate planning makes being prepared easy.

Some ways to avoid triggering sounds include:

  • Noise-cancelling headphones: A great tool to mute a child’s surroundings, these headphones can help them avoid problematic noises on-demand.
  • Ear plugs: These are more compact and discreet than headphones, yet don’t completely block out all sound, allowing for more spatial awareness.
  • Leaving the environment: Especially in the early stages of therapy for misophonia, occasionally it’s best to leave the situation to prevent an emotional reaction.
Cope with Misophonia

Ways to Cope with Misophonia

To improve a child with autism’s ability to cope with their misophonia, they must have healthy ways to process or divert their focus from the bothersome noise and be able to channel their energy elsewhere. This can be done using physical activities, learned exercises, or psychological tools they’ve developed.

A few coping tactics for a child with misophonia and autism are:

  • Technology: Portable music, games, television, or movies can all serve as engaging, positive ways to redirect a child’s behavior and distract from trigger noises.
  • Breathing exercises or meditation: Deep or structured breathing can soothe, relax, and refocus a child during an extreme auditory stimuli response.
  • Therapy: Cognitive behavioral therapy is often used to help treat misophonia, but for children with autism, applied behavior analysis (ABA), is immensely helpful.
Symptoms of misophonia

What is Misophonia?

A type of sound sensitivity disorder, misophonia causes the brain to trigger a fight-or-flight response upon hearing a particular noise. The exact cause of misophonia is unknown, but it’s believed to be influenced by neurodevelopmental disorders, mental or physical trauma, and conditioning over time.

Some symptoms of misophonia are:

  • Crying or screaming
  • Covering ears
  • Running away or wanting to flee
  • Disorientation
  • Force or violence towards people nearby
Misophonia trigger noises

How Can Misophonia Present Extra Challenges for Your Child?

Typical misophonia trigger noises are common parts of everyday life, such as chewing, coughing, sniffling, sneezing, throat clearing, tapping, and scratching. This can make going to school and hobbies more difficult and stressful for a child with misophonia. When a child has autism along with misophonia, the intense response to auditory stimuli can be even more overwhelming, especially in an unfamiliar environment. However, misophonia in children with ASD can be managed with the proper techniques, tools, and activities to interrupt the brain’s noise-to-response cycle.

Avoid Triggering Misophonia

Ways to Avoid Triggering Misophonia

One strategy to help a child with ASD and misophonia is to avoid their problem sounds altogether, thus preventing the serious emotional and physical response. The first step is to identify the noises that cause them intense distress, and then start building an action plan to steer clear when the time comes. It’s sometimes impossible to prevent certain noises, but adequate planning makes being prepared easy.

Some ways to avoid triggering sounds include:

  • Noise-cancelling headphones: A great tool to mute a child’s surroundings, these headphones can help them avoid problematic noises on-demand.
  • Ear plugs: These are more compact and discreet than headphones, yet don’t completely block out all sound, allowing for more spatial awareness.
  • Leaving the environment: Especially in the early stages of therapy for misophonia, occasionally it’s best to leave the situation to prevent an emotional reaction.
Cope with Misophonia

Ways to Cope with Misophonia

To improve a child with autism’s ability to cope with their misophonia, they must have healthy ways to process or divert their focus from the bothersome noise and be able to channel their energy elsewhere. This can be done using physical activities, learned exercises, or psychological tools they’ve developed.

A few coping tactics for a child with misophonia and autism are:

  • Technology: Portable music, games, television, or movies can all serve as engaging, positive ways to redirect a child’s behavior and distract from trigger noises.
  • Breathing exercises or meditation: Deep or structured breathing can soothe, relax, and refocus a child during an extreme auditory stimuli response.
  • Therapy: Cognitive behavioral therapy is often used to help treat misophonia, but for children with autism, applied behavior analysis (ABA), is immensely helpful.
Manage Your Child’s Misophonia

Help Manage Your Child’s Misophonia

At Cardinal Center for Behavioral Health, your child will work with one of our certified therapists that help them develop healthy ways to cope with and reduce mispohonia-related  stress. Through our at-home or onsite ABA services, we’ll teach your child the multifaceted skills they need to process their trigger noises. To further help them deal with misophonia in the presence of others, we also offer group ABA therapy from our autism treatment center in Cary. Schedule a visit today to get your child started!

Manage Your Child’s Misophonia

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