Why Does The Vacuum Scare My Child?

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Posted on Oct 18 2014 - 1:00am by Jill
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We all own a vacuum and run it in our households once or more a week. Many of us however, myself included, take for granted flipping that switch to do our daily or weekly household chores. For our son this simple act of running our vacuum would have neighbors running to the door if we didn’t live out in the country without any neighbors close by. When we vacuum we often find our son running away from it, screaming, or dancing about to get out of its way. 

Why Does The Vacuum Scare My Child

We used to think this was a game, but recently we discovered that to him it is not a game. You could imagine the fun that we used to have playing vacuum time, but what we were not realizing is that it might not have been a game. To me, loud sounds are just that, loud sounds. Sometimes I cover my ears, as we all do, so when I would see him covering his ears I just thought it was too loud for him and would have him hold the cord for me or he would offer to go in another room and move things and get them ready for me to vacuum around. I just thought he loved helping, which he does. Then some other things started happening and we have come to the conclusion with some professional assistance that my son has something called Sensory Processing Disorder, or SPD, more specifically auditory SPD. This means that the vacuum could be hurting him without anyone, he or I included, realizing it. 

I have a small confession to share with all of you, since having children I am slightly, okay more like very, OCD when it comes to cleaning. It is just simply built into this mama’s hard wiring and is part of who I am. My OCD makes running the simple household vacuum extremely hard these days not only on our son but also on myself. We have to run the vacuum daily, sometimes more than once, living in the country with dust and having 5 indoor dogs. We have had to get very creative in the way we approach our daily vacuum run of our home. 

I am by no means an expert and consider myself a newbie in respect to the world of sensory processing disorder. Our son is 10 years old and was just diagnosed over the summer. While this learning process had shed so much light onto the magnifying situations occurring with our son since he was a toddler, it has also been extremely overwhelming and can often feel like someone just punched you in the gut. There have been many sleepless nights and many tears shed the last few months. My husband and I have a firm way of living; however, I suppose mainly thanks to my chronic and sometimes debilitating health problems, that I have dealt with for over 10 years, that this just makes our son even more special and we will not allow any medical diagnosis to define our lives or become a crutch for any of us. This is just a challenge that we will happily take on and will make us all stronger as a family unit, together! 

If you think you might be in the same boat as we are, with a child that might have SPD, I highly recommend if you speak with your child’s pediatrician or specialist that you trust your mommy gut in regards to your child, you know the one that sits in your head day and night overriding all of the outside experience and assurances that your child is just acting out or being a sissy? Many children do not like loud noises, but for our son as you read above, it can be crippling, especially when he is not aware that is happening. Prime examples are when I decide to vacuum and turn it on and he didn’t see me start or when the dogs start barking loudly and uncontrolled at something in the yard or at someone at the door. Bless his heart, but his little body just cannot deal with the sudden loudness, but we, as a family, will teach him and ourselves how to deal with this. This is just one of many ways that our family is working with our son not only to provide him the proper tools that he will need as he grows into adulthood; but also how to not feed into the triggers that he has or will develop. There is no drug or treatment to fix him because he is not broken. We just need to help him cope with techniques that will afford him to still be himself and not be defined by his SPD. 

How To Handle A Child When They Are Shut Down By Loud Noises

How To Handle A Child When They Are Shut Down By Loud Noises

If your child has trouble with loud noises, such as everyday vacuuming, here are some ways that I have found that helps to manage the day-to-day hustle and bustle of loud noises. Hopefully one or more of these tips and tricks can help you with your child that has problems with loud noises: 

  • Open Communication: This is a key factor in our household. If someone is going to use any “sudden” loud or noisy item we take the time to let our son know. This can mean the difference between no melt down, a major meltdown or a world shattering melt down that lasts all day or multiple days.
  • A Boy’s Best Friend: Our 5 fur babies ranging in age from 10 years old to 7 months old are a lifesaver when it comes to our son. Animals in general are very aware when people are stressed and upset. When we need to run the vacuum or a loud piece of equipment such as a drill inside of the home I have found that sending our son outside with one or more of our dogs to the throw a stick in the dog run helps tremendously to ease the noise for him. He is learning to focus on what he is doing instead of what he is hearing.
  • Slime: I simply place our son’s ear muffs on his head and give him some slime to use with his Lego© figures while I vacuum. This hands-on sensory activity tends to help tremendously as it focuses him into what he is ‘playing’ or learning with.
  • Pop-Up Play Tent: I put up a tent in the quiet portion of our home and set our son up in the pop-up play tent such as this one with his headphones on listening to an audio book or some of his music.
  • Set Up Planets In Your Home: We have a two story home that I have divided into “planets” for our son since he is a massive Star Wars fan and overall enthusiast of space. You could easily translate this into something that your child prefers such as “kingdoms” for princesses. I created a “star map” of the major sections of our home for our son. He named each of the sections/planets a fun name. Each time I need to run the vacuum I send him to the section/planet that is furthest away from the area I am vacuuming and will have the least amount of impact on him to do one of the above mentioned activities.
  • Understanding and Awareness: Being able to understand that something will trigger our son has also been hard, but beneficial too. I have stopped using the signal on the washing machine because it is loud. I have also taught him how to carefully stop the microwave timer and oven timers that I use. He knows that once they go off he can turn them off. This helps us all to be aware of what is going on around us.
  • Compassion: Not everyone you know, meet, or have to your home will understand what your child is going through, but you do. Be calm and prepared to discuss it if it comes up and help others as much as they are willing to understand, but be prepared that they will not. This is not a reflection on you or your child, but of their lack of compassion. I have had to let it go on more than one occasion.
  • Preparedness: When we leave the house, prepare a small backpack for child to take with them, such as this one. Inside be sure to place a few toys, maybe their noise cancelling earmuffs, a few of their calm down devices, and their headphones. This way, no matter where you are you can be prepared to give them the most tools to deal with whatever you encounter that they might have issues with.
  • Know Their Limits, and Yours: There will be times you will find yourself completely frustrated, but it is not theirs or your fault. You will learn your child’s limits, and your own too. It is ok to push these limits, but you must first know about them. It reminds of one Sunday a few years back when my husband and son went to a local NFL game and by the start of kick-off they had to leave because Beck kept putting his head between his knees. If we had know about Beck’s SPD then they would not have gone, but at least they enjoyed what they could as the noise inside the stadium was just to overpowering for him. Now they watch the occasional football game on the couch at home with their favorite snacks, together.

Sensory Fix™ for Everyday Sensory Needs

The Sensory Fix Toolkit 

The Sensory Fix™ Toolkit is a 15+ tool kit in a backpack that is geared helping regulate your child’s sensory system and calm themselves.  The best part is that the Sensory Fix™ Toolkit comes with a fun chart telling you which behaviors each tool can help with, making it easy for any parent and child to use together! 

Project Sensory Companion Guide

As a bonus, each purchase of a Sensory Fix™ Toolkit includes a one year membership to Project Sensory’s Printables Club where you will find other helpful printables and tools each month.  If you were to buy all of the components on Amazon or at a store you would have to spend well over $200.  But Dayna has managed to get the total price down to a lower and more reasonable amount and gives a 35% discount to anyone who preorders their kit before December 1, 2014.  Another bonus is that for every 20 Sensory Fix™ Toolkits sold, Project Sensory will donate a kit to a classroom in need!  If you are a teacher interested in finding out more you find out all the details on the Teacher Page to Apply for a Classroom Sensory Fix™. 

100 Sensory Activities for Home or School

Would you like a free printable challenge?

To get your free copy of the Printable Challenge containing 100 Sensory Activities for Home or School in honor of October being Sensory Processing Awareness Month, please visit HERE

Do You Have Other Child Behaviors You Might Want To Decode?

Make sure to follow along with all the Sensory Decoding at #ProjectSensory and #SensoryFix hashtags on social media and check back with the Decoding Everyday Kid Behaviors homepage for more kid behavior solutions each day that is being hosted by Lemon Lime Adventures for more information on decoding various children’s behavioral habits from parents just like you. 

Decoding Everyday Kid Behaviors

Do you have any tips or tricks that you have found that work well for your child who is sensitive to loud noises? If so, please leave them in the comment section of this article. Again, being so new to having a child with SPD, much of my time in between homeschooling, running my business, and taking care of my family is spent with my nose in a book trying to soak in as much information as I can to make it the best for our son and provide him with the tools and techniques he will need to live with this the rest of his life.

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