Sensory integration disorder is a side-effect of Autism, where their hearing (auditory) and vision (visual) are not in-sync with their senses and perceptions, which in turn affects their behavior. Some children react aggressively to it, some children tune-out and retreat into themselves.
This is why Maya falls down to the ground, rolling around and moaning in agony or screams her heart out whenever she’s in a busy and loud environment. This is why Maya used to run with her head tilted sideways and looking out of the corners of her eyes. When Maya was a newborn we just sensed that she had sensory overload. A trip to a noisy mall in the daytime would result in Maya screaming and screaming for hours until midnight.
Gentle ambient noises would be too much for her. Being in a room full of people having conversations was unbearable. Crossing the street is excruciating to Maya, the sound of traffic, construction noises and crowds freaks her out.
For anyone who’s had the pleasure of flying Air Asia out of their low cost terminal, passengers would have to walk across tarmacs with the sound of jet engines blasting. For someone with auditory integration disorder, this is absolute hell on earth for Maya. When she was 9 months old, our whole family took an Air Asia flight to visit my brother in Labuan. The noise and hustle of the airport was too much for her to take. For the whole 2 and half hour flight, Paul and I, our maid and both my parents took turns to comfort her. Maya was uncontrollable, she screamed and fought us with all her might. The other passengers on the flight were very kind and understanding. Everyone sensed that we were trying our best, it took 5 adults to calm her down, and not very successfully at that.
Some people from our flight actually recognized us when we went sightseeing in Labuan, they came up to us and said “you were the guys on the plane, the one with the noisy kid”. They kindly gave us some advice on how to calm her down on flights – to put some water on her head (in order to cool her down). We just smiled.
Today, Maya has conquered her fear of the vacuum cleaner. And when I turn the blender on, instead of crying, she just leaves the room. When before, she couldn’t bear to have the radio on in the car, now she just tells us to turn it off. Recently, when driving Maya to school, I asked her if I could turn the radio on to hear some music, and now she says “Let’s listen to some music on the radio”. Now we listen to music every morning on the way to school.
On our last trip to Singapore, budget necessitates us to fly Air Asia. Amazingly, Maya walked the whole way from the aircraft on the tarmac all the way to the terminal. It was hot, noisy and busy; she just kept on walking with her hands over her ears. I’m so proud of her.
We did not do any specialized sensory integration therapy, time and other priorities did not permit it. However, with a combination of ABA therapy and by healing some of her medical issues, Maya has reduced her sensory disorders. It took us a long time to get here, but the music sounds all the more sweeter.