Unforeseen Behaviors: Sensory Stimulations

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“Sometimes I feel of another world….”

Finding Sensory Stimulation and Balance

“Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain-

And most fools do.”      -Benjamin Franklin

 

The world we live in full of beautiful sights, sounds, smells, and tactile things. Imagine if your sensitivity to all these physical and sensory stimulations was magnify by 10 times? by 100 times? by 1000 times? People with Autism may in fact experience the world that way!

The thought of such a life experience is scary, overwhelming, even unbearable. And may be exactly what people with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and certain other conditions may face every day. Sensory stimulation is a constant flow of communication from the outside world to each of us. Sensory input can help us prepare for what’s coming and prevent some disastrous events; help us stay connected, be empathetic, compassionate, and make judgements about things we want or don’t, and help us form relationships. Over sensitivity, or under sensitivity to stimulation can be annoying (like the itch one can’t reach), or worse yet, dangerous (such as being unable to sense the warning signs that could save us from disaster). Sensory stimulation must have balance to be useful on personal levels.

People who have ASD frequently express a state of anxiety brought on by either too much, or too little, sensory stimulation for them at that moment. Many are unable to regulate or communicate their perceptions of sensations and are inexperienced in coping with them. At times a person can behave aggressively, running away, and engaged in other behaviors unexpectedly. Like a tensioning device with no governor that tightens till it explodes, the child with Autism has many unforeseen behaviors that interfere with functional independence in very real ways. Only fools criticize the person with ASD for their relationship to stimulations. Tools are needed to help support the expression of and managing of feelings, emotions, and sensations. Music is perfectly designed to help individuals do this.

In this segment we look at a consumer electronic device that can be useful in creating more stimulation, less stimulation, or blocking out stimulations from the environment so a person with a disability can eat, sleep, play, unwind, or be generally safer and more self-sufficient in their environment thus contributing to overall happiness of the family, the child,  and the caregivers!

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The loved ones of those with ASD know just how intense and destructive a behavioral “melt down” can be. Parents soon learn to monitor the individual with ASD carefully, and attempt to prevent or resolve the inevitable “melt downs” when they happen. They look for tools that assist the individual to cope, and music is one of the solutions many turn to. Research has increasingly confirmed that music helps the human brain relax, restore, regulate, balance, and heal. Music is a social and personal stimulation means used by many for entertainment, learning, and therapy.

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“Sleep Phones” are new headphone devices designed to give the user comfortable, wireless, hands-free stereo music at anytime and anywhere without bulky headphones, earbuds, or wires. The Bluetooth mini-speakers are located in a soft, micro-fabric, stretch headband. The electronics can be easily removed to wash the fabric band; come in different colors and three sizes. The slim electronics are not easy to detect when laying down, sitting, standing, exercising, so you can sleep on it comfortably. They tend to reduce ambient noise around the user, even snoring. A sports-style headband is available for the very active person. The Bluetooth version charges easily with a UBC cable (included) and has good battery life, but has a very short network range so the player must be with 2-3 foot of the user to work well. SleepPhones come with pairing instructions and a free app of recommended music.

You may find the over stimulated mind responds well to the calming and grounding influences of music listening. Popular music may not offer as much of this, streaming music services may include commercials, so the best solution maybe purchasing and downloading your own selections of music that can be saved and used on multiple devices and upgraded or changed at will. Our recommendation is to choose the music the person using the device responses to most positively and consistently. Don’t change up the music too often, as a person with disabilities prefers the known and familiar especially when de-escalating. Our favorite site for music specializes in instrumental, easy-listening, harmonic and orchestral music without lyrics produced at 63-65 beats per minute (which approximates the human heart rate) and soothes the biorhythms. Our therapeutic music site; “Primitive Jam Studios” !

Primitive Jam Studios by Doc A. Budlow

You can listen for free, then purchase a song or an entire “Sound Painting” for your collection. Music can be looped or randomized for long plays. Music is a good therapy tool that many turn to for relief of stress, to relax, meditate, and to assist concentrate. Background music can be a valuable sensory and self-regulation tool for the person with communication issues, stress, grief, and those on the ASD spectrum.

Don’t forget to share our site with your friends and family! We are at:

www. Enable Them .com

Uncertainty Avoidance : Socializing for the Hard-of-Hearing

 

Over one third of American adults experience some form of hearing loss today. Hard-of-Hearing (HOH) and legally deaf (DD) people abound in our families and workplaces, schools, churches, and diners. People with hearing difficulties tend to over compensate for their hearing challenges rather than advocate for us to accommodate them; I know, I am one of them. When a person has DD/HOH they may avoid activities and events where the uncertainty of not understanding what is going on is greater. Some of us have hearing aides but these often don’t work well in crowded or noisy environments.  Folks with HOH may try to compensate by; reading lips or body language, reading the print materials available, asking a friend to clarify and simplify, asking for information to be repeated, (“What?”) or even guessing the content of the message.

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Universal designs for learning (UDL) are effective tools for helping people access information better, whether or not they need an accommodation, that should be used by everyone with a message to give others or trouble with receiving it. For HOH accommodations like;

  • Captioned videos.
  • Materials available in print for speeches and pre-recorded auditory messages.
  • Recorded versions of the presentation posted online with captions.
  • Copy of the speech script.
  • Sign language interpreter.

“FM” systems are a common way for learning and presenting organizations to assist  those with HOH to access training, lectures, and other public presentations. A microphone and transmitter must be worn by the speaker and a receiver with headphones is used by the listener to amplify auditory volume. Background noises are a big problem. Another trouble is, to work properly the equipment must be adjusted slightly to each new user. A 20-30 minute training and adjustment period is needed for the equipment to work well for the listener, for each new speaker. This is not always possible, or those with HOH may not want to interrupt a speaker to ask for hearing assistance, including a training period!

Another tool exists which may help students, elders, and others with hearing challenges to hear more accurately and remember important facts from auditory presentations. This device allows a person with the HOH disability to control when, how, and to what degree they use it for amplification in public or at home, and it can be used in addition to hearing aides or cochlear implants. The tool I refer to is a Parabolic Dish Handheld Directional Listening Device or “Bionic Ear.”

You may have seen it in a toy store as kids “spy” equipment, or in a hunting store somewhere. These devices vary greatly in quality and durability. On close examination it appears they are made by just one or two manufacturers in China, and sold under several brands with somewhat different features. Many are cheap junk, but one or two are moderately-priced, durable, and VERY HELPFUL ed tech products that give HOH persons more personalized, adjustable hearing access, while reducing some of the distracting background noise, and allowing one to record vocal and other sounds for use and review later on (12 sec. internal capacity, or connectable to an external recording device for added recording time). This feature is great for educational environments where the student may also need more repetitions or extra time to process the information heard.

We tested five models. One worked as desired, two were fairly good, and 2 were not. All come in three pieces and are easy to assemble and de-construct to transport (i.e., a gun, a dish, and headphones; no tools required). All use a 9-volt battery (not included) which needs a philips screwdriver to install (not included); we liked ones with a snap-on battery terminal and compartment with easy to use screw and cap; while others have internal battery terminals, and difficult or non-working battery compartment lids. The better ones have volume/frequency control knobs that works smoothly, a set of record/play buttons, and a visual mono-scope (I can still lip-read!). Headphones are a big feature of the devices, so they must be comfortable, clear in tone, and head-size adjustable. The units that had very cheap or unusable headphones included we didn’t like. Our testers preferred one model:

  1. UZI Observation Device (UZI-OD-1) works great, nice headphones, on/off trigger, 8X monocular, frequency and volume controls, up to 300′ range (less with background noise), easy single-button record and playback features. Durable, can be used in all environments and conditions, water resistant, long battery life, safe, light-weight; The One We Recommend!
  2. Hausbell Scientific Explorer Bionic Ear (no model number; “plain Jane” box) works good but has less functional range, comfortable, single-adjustment headphones, monocular (unknown zoom), volume control, 150-200′ range, record and playback features, sensitive to moisture, a good second choice.
  3. SUMA; a medium to short range Bionic ear alternative, acceptable headphones, shipping time was very long (over 2 weeks for standard, others arrived in 8-10 days), and slightly more expensive for the same mid-range quality as Hausbell.
  4. Educational Insights Geosafari Sonic Sleuth poor quality, no features, battery compartment not functional, very cheap headphones.
  5. Scientific Explorer Bionic Ear Electronic Listening Device also poorly made, broke within an hour of use, problems with the battery compartment, poor quality microphone and headphones.

The only feature none of these models included that we like in our “better listening kit,” is a large Rubber Band, and an extra battery (and small screwdriver). All units tested had an on/off “trigger” switch, which must be held down with the finger continuously while the unit is in use. Holding the trigger for extended periods of time is not fun. Try using a large rubber band (seen in above photo), adjust it over the trigger for longer periods of use (may shorten battery life). Use the plastic ‘feet’ on the parabolic dish to stand or rest the device on an object or table. So far, we’ve had many happy hours in the park at free concerts, community gatherings, classes, and other places where previously this HOH person wouldn’t have been able to hear, across a distance with people around. But now I hear acceptably in many more places just by aiming the parabolic device directly towards the person I am listening to. Now I can feel at ease and in control at  many activities I used to avoid attending because of the uncertainty and isolation of being HOH.

If you give this device a try please let us know what you think! Remember to look for this and other useful ed tech under “products” on our website at: www.enablethem.com