Tag Archive: autism

Refuge from noise for autistic kids and adults

Photo credit: John Marino has dedicated this photo to the public domain

by David M. Sykes, Vice Chair, The Quiet Coalition

America is awakening to the special needs of kids and adults on the autism spectrum. Many are hyper-reactive to environmental noise.

A few shopping centers have introduced “quiet hours” specifically aimed at families with autistic children. Now a few airports are getting the message too.

For example, Lonely Planet reports that Pittsburgh International Airport has opened a 500 square foot “sensory room” called Presley’s Place where traveling families with autistic members can calm down and get ready to fly or de-compress after landing.

For some of us, finding a quiet place is a quest, something we simply enjoy. But for others, it’s an essential need! Let’s hope other airports get the message soon.

David Sykes chairs several professional organizations in acoustical science: QCI Healthcare Acoustics Project, ANSI Committee S12-WG44, the Rothschild Foundation Task Force on Acoustics, and the FGI Acoustics Committee. He is lead author of “Sound & Vibration 2.0” (Springer, 2012), a contributor to the NAE’s “Technology for a Quieter America” and the GSA’s “Sound Matters,” and co-founded the Laboratory for Advanced Research in Acoustics at Rensselaer Polytech. A graduate of UC-Berkeley with advanced degrees from Cornell, he is a frequent organizer of professional conferences in the U.S., Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Welcoming travelers with autism

Photo credit: Suliman Sallehi from Pexels

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This article in the New York Times discusses efforts being made by amusement parks and other venues to welcome visitors with autism. The CDC reported that about 1 in 57 children in the United States is now born with some form of autism.

Among the issues those with autism have is a sensitivity to noise.  Quieter environments are better for them.

Quieter environments are also better for people with auditory disorders, including hearing loss, tinnitus, and hyperacusis.  These generally are much less of a problem than autism, but the “reasonable accommodations”–environmental modifications required by the Americans with Disabilities Act–being made for those with autism could provide a model for reasonable accommodations that could be made for those with auditory disorders.

In many cases, the simplest reasonable accommodation costs nothing: simply turn down the volume of the amplified sound.

Because if something sounds too loud, it IS too loud.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He is the founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, an organization of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America. Dr Fink also is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’ Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.

UK supermarket starts quiet hour for people with autism

Photo credit: Steve F licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

People with autism are bothered by noise, so the British supermarket chain Morrison’s is implementing a weekly quiet hour to help them shop.

Many other shoppers are bothered by noise, including those of us with tinnitus and hyperacusis, and people with hearing loss. In fact, loud ambient noise makes it difficult if not impossible for people to converse, even those with normal hearing.

We know that retail studies show that loud background music encourages people to spend money, but we think that most people want quiet, and  loud background music drives many adults away from restaurants and stores.

And we know for sure that loud noise causes hearing loss, hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease–the scientific evidence is incontrovertible.

If enough shoppers complain to store managers about unwanted and unneeded noise, perhaps stores will become quieter.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He is the founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, an organization of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America. Dr Fink also is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’ Health Advisory Council, and he served on the board of the American Tinnitus Association from 2015-2018.

This is disturbing:

New Zealand library uses ‘mosquito’ noise device to keep youths away.

Long and short, a New Zealand library installed a noise device because of complaints by (presumably older) customers “about such issues as swearing, abuse, standover tactics and intimidating behaviour.”  The device in question is marketed as an “ultrasonic teenage deterrent” that can be heard by anyone under the age of 25.  Apparently these devices have been used elsewhere because we are told that, “politicians in the UK call[ed] for a ban [of the devices], saying they are discriminatory towards young people, discourage group gatherings and may be harmful to hearing.”  And some children, particularly children with Down’s Syndrome or autism, are more sensitive to noise.

The idea of using weaponized noise to discourage teens from loitering outside a library is absolutely abhorrent.  Yes, some teens revel in anti-social behavior, but as one child’s librarian noted, “I find it very strange they have decided to use this device during opening hours when really we all need be encouraging children to read.”  We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.  There must be a better way of discouraging anti-social behavior than treating everyone under the age of 25 years as part of the problem.

Broadway shows that it cares:

Broadway’s LION KING, ALADDIN and More to Offer Autism Friendly Performances This Year.

Broadway World writes about the Theater Development Fund (TDF), a not-for-profit service organization for the performing arts, makes autism-friendly theater available through its Autism Theatre Initiative (ATI), which operates under the umbrella of TDF’s Accessibility Programs.  How does the TDF make theater “autism friendly?”  Broadway World explains:

To create an autism-friendly setting, the shows are performed in a friendly, supportive environment for an audience of families and friends with children or adults who are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder or other sensitivity issues. Slight adjustments to the production will include reduction of any jarring sounds or strobe lights focused into the audience. In the theatre lobby there will be staffed quiet and play areas, if anyone needs to leave their seats during the performance.

For more information about the ATI or to order tickets for autism-friendly performances, click here.

Thanks to Jenn Leonard for the link.

 

City of Santa Maria, California knows how to address July 4th noise:

Signs available for noise sensitive residents on 4th of July.

And before someone complains about having to accommodate those sensitive to noise, consider who may be at risk.  As KSBY.com reports, “[t]he signs are intended for veterans with PTSD, people with autism, owners of pets, and others with noise sensitivity.”

It looks like the campaign to provide noise-free shopping is progressing:

Scottish shopping center to introduce a quiet hour to make mall “more autism-friendly.”

In the UK, at least, business owners are beginning to understand that there is an underserved market that is eager for noise-free environments.  While efforts to address this market may be driven in part by compassion, there is no doubt that a robust response by the buying public will make quiet hours de rigueur.  Let’s hope the UK experience is profitable, because that may give incentive to U.S. businesses to design quieter spaces.