Life With Lowe: Noah Tolerates “The Sound of (Live) Music”
May 20, 2015
Noah loves music. He’s obsessed with hearing songs on the radio and TV and becomes a mover and a shaker when a tune comes on that he really likes.
Despite this love of music, Noah’s sensory issues have caused him to not be able to tolerate live, group singing. For a long time we thought it was the Happy Birthday song that he hated. Anytime people would sing that song, for Noah or anyone in the family, that happy smile of his would turn upside down and he would begin to cry. We got to the point that if we needed to sing Happy Birthday to someone, we would whisper the song around Noah so he wouldn’t get upset.
Recently, I have come to the realization that it wasn’t the Happy Birthday song that was the problem but instead it’s everyone singing in a group, that upsets Noah. I figured this out when my daughter got a part in the musical, The Sound of Music at a local community theatre. As most people know, The Sound of Music is a classic musical, with LOTS of singing throughout. When I had to bring Noah to rehearsal and they would begin rehearsing a scene with singing, I would see that same smile of Noah’s turn upside down and he would begin to cry. It got the point I had to sit in the car with Noah for the whole rehearsal because it was too much for him to handle.
I brought all of this up to Noah’s Occupational Therapist. She has been working on his sensory issues and she suggested I do one of the exercises she does, at home and more often, especially around his head. The exercise was simple and to be done around specific parts of his body, however, focusing more towards the back of the head. She would take the first two fingers of each hand and tap towards the back of the head with the rhythm, cha–cha–cha cha cha. To Noah with sensory issues, this tapping sound on his head with the fingers creates a rain sound pounding inside his head and it’s a lot for his brain to handle. The goal of this exercise is to help Noah with his sensitivity to certain sounds and tolerating certain frequencies better.
How can such a silly-looking exercise work? This was the question I kept asking myself. I was definitely skeptical. I was used to Noah getting upset with group singing at this point and could hardly believe a tapping on his head, in a rhythmic pattern, would work.
A couple weeks into this exercise with his OT and with me, I was in the theatre for my daughter’s rehearsal and put Noah down for a moment. I thought I was safe with no one singing for a few minutes. I was wrong. The ladies playing the nuns had gathered around a keyboard with a speaker to rehearse a scene where they all sing together. They were nice and loud and it also included lots of high notes. I got nervous.
Noah, who also likes to touch speakers because of the vibrations he feels, gravitated toward the loud speaker. However, at no point, did he stop and get upset. Instead, he sat on the floor, next to the speaker, in the middle of all the singing nuns to feel the vibrations from the speaker. I was stunned.
I also thought, maybe it was a fluke. I shouldn’t get too excited just yet. Well, it just so happened to be the birthday of the actor playing Captain Von Trapp, so a room of 30 people decided to sing happy birthday to him at the end of the rehearsal. I was fixated on Noah the entire time. He never got that upside down frowny-face that I was used to seeing upon hearing a group begin to sing together.
As the happy birthday song ended, I picked up Noah and hugged him so tight. I was so proud and excited for him. I felt kind of bad afterward. Here we were singing for someone else and I completely ignored him due to the excitement of seeing Noah be around a song that we thought he hated, for so long! My next thought was that we may be able to sing Happy Birthday to him in July and not whisper the song as we celebrate his turning another year older. That would be nice gift to me on his fourth birthday as well.
He has since tolerated other rehearsals inside the theatre without getting upset so I’m hopeful maybe we’ve crossed over this particular hurdle and we can now move on and enjoy music, both recorded and live, with Noah in full participation.
I’m proud of this kid.
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