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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Music (03/08/07)

TITLE: Music Can Be Painful
By Joanney Uthe


“No! No! Stop! AAAAAAAAAAAAA!” Bryanne covered her ears, rocking back and forth, as I tried to comfort her. Usually her favorite song, something about “Down By The Bay” had triggered this reaction. I tried to remember all the things her occupational therapist said might help to calm her. I held her on my lap, applying gentle pressure to her chest. I talked to her in a soothing voice. At least I attempted to make it soothing. Sometimes I think she feels my frustration almost as strongly as I do. It wasn’t working.

The occupational therapist said that music could help, so I signed Bryanne up for Mini-Musician classes for preschoolers. The class coordinator knew our situation, but the other parents did not and gave me judgmental looks. I knew they thought our sitting in the back of the room was not sufficient, that I should take her out of the class.

“I’m sorry; I played a wrong note just before she started screaming.” The instructor seemed genuine in her apology and her concern. “She must have been able to pick up on the mistake.” With Bryanne no longer screaming, the other parents looked shocked at the observation, but still not pleased with our presence.

Should I explain her behavior? Did I understand it that well myself? I need to do what is best for my daughter, not what is convenient for everyone else. Yet, I don’t want to be rude and interruptive. I will feel horrible if one mother pulls her child because of Bryanne. Lord, give me wisdom and patience here.

Bryanne was calm for the few songs, until the instructor started to hand each child an instrument, pulling an assortment of drums, tambourines, and maracas from her bag. I knew Bryanne would not be able to tolerate the instruments. The coordinator had promised to limit their use to the last five minutes of class and Bryanne and I could leave during their distribution.

“Stay, Mommy, stay. I want a drum!” Bryanne kicked and screamed as I took her from the room. If only I had left a few minutes earlier. What preschooler could hold an instrument quiet until asked to play? Definitely not the ones in this class! Before we even reached the door, Bryanne covered her ears and started to scream again. I knew I would have yet another bruise from her kicking.

“Ma’am, wait up!” I turned to see one of the mothers from the class, son in tow.

Great, now comes the invitation not to return to class. God, give me the words to be nice to this person. I’m having a hard time dealing with Bryanne right now, I don’t think I can deal with rejection also.

“Hi, my name is Mari. I’m sorry about the looks you received from most of the parents, but you handled it well. My nephew’s autistic and has similar reactions , sometimes worse. He would have tried to hurt himself or everyone in the room with the noise from the instruments”

“Bryanne’s not autistic. We had her tested.” And I’m getting testy myself.

“I didn’t mean to imply she was. I studied sensory defensiveness and although common in children with autism, it can be totally separate. Does she react to things other than noise?”

“She won’t eat soft foods, either, but the music is the worst. People seem to understand a picky eater, but not a picky listener.” I knew I shouldn’t vent my frustration on this stranger even if her facial expressions remained friendly and understanding.

“Most people don’t understand that it can actually be painful for someone with sensory defensiveness to experience certain things that we may think are pleasant, especially music.” Mari opened the door of the van next to mine. “If this class doesn’t work out with leaving before the instruments, try private lessons. My brother did that for my nephew. The teacher could better control of how many sounds he presented at once. Sometimes it is the quantity of sounds, rather then the volume.”

“With Bryanne it tends to be crowds and certain noises that I normally tune out, like the ceiling fan. It was nice meeting you, but I need to get Bryanne to her therapy appointment.”

“I’ll see you next week, then?”

“Yes. And, Mari, thanks for everything. You don’t know how much I needed this.” I finished buckling Bryanne into her car seat as I praised God for this new friend.

Note: Sensory defensiveness is a negative, “fight, fright, or flight” reaction to sensory input that most people would consider positive or neutral. Auditory defensiveness may mean an intolerance of high-pitched sounds, like a ceiling fan, or multi-leveled music. Oral defensiveness can be towards certain flavors, textures or temperatures of food.

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This article has been read 918 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Sharlyn Guthrie03/15/07
Thanks for your informative, yet easy to read story. I have encountered many such children, and my heart goes out to all of them and their parents. You did a great job of telling us the mother's feelings, and also demonstrating how important it is for others to extend understanding and friendship.
Jacquelyn Horne03/18/07
Very informative story. I was glad to see the new friend appear with help. I was not aware of such situations. Good job.
julie wood03/19/07
I loved this story! I could totally identify with it, as I have sensory defensiveness and as a child was terrified of thunderstorms, firecrackers, vacuum cleaners, cake mixers, radiators, and even popping balloons, heavy breathing, and dripping faucets! The sound of barking dogs still hurts my ears--is physically painful to me.

Great use of dialogue in this and description of the anxious mother's thoughts. I could see, hear, and feel it all happening. Thanks for sharing!
Laurie Glass 03/19/07
Well done, held my attention and informative, too. I learned something tonight.
Jan Ackerson 03/19/07
My heart goes out to this narrator and her little girl! You explained something unfamiliar to most readers, and still kept it a fascinating read. Good job.
Jen Davis03/19/07
My heart went out to this mother and child, and I felt the mother's relief when another mother reached out to her. Thanks for sharing this very interesting story.
Myrna Noyes03/20/07
This was a facinating, well-written story that clearly demonstrated a little-known condition. You portrayed the child's unusual reaction to music and the mother's frustration very ably! Thank you for educating me!
Joanne Sher 03/21/07
An intriguing and realistic read! I am familiar with this, but not as much as you are - I appreciated being "taught" in a very engaging way - and the story was wonderful.
Michelle Burkhardt03/21/07
A very nice informative story. Thanks for sharing your difficulties for it did open my eyes on how we can be judgemental. Nice job.
Cassie Memmer03/22/07
Wow! I've never heard of this. Thank you for educating me in such a wonderful, informative way. Good writing touches the heart of the reader, and you certainly touched my heart.
Sara Harricharan 03/22/07
Congrats! This deserved to win! ^_^
Elizabeth Baize04/07/07
Wow! What an incredible way to approach the topic. Even though you chose a difficult subject matter you handled it with great skill. I am so glad I read this and learned about sensory defensiveness. Thank you. In His Name, Elizabeth
Edy T Johnson 11/26/07
This is very good, Joanney! I'm glad it got the judges' attention it deserved. What a neat way to teach us a lesson (I had no clue) through the characters of your story. It's just the best way to learn, I'm fond of saying.

I'm glad I came calling to thank you for leaving a comment on my Thanks Living story. Bless the Lord for bringing us together through FaithWriters!
Betty Castleberry03/29/10
You managed to make this informative, yet easy to read, even with the challenge word limit.

Good illustration of one of the facets of autism, too. Well done.
Verna Cole Mitchell 07/07/10
Thanks for opening my eyes to something I'd never realized. Your informative story was interesting as well.
Carole Robishaw 07/07/10
This very educational, as well as being a good story. I have a granddaughter who has similar problems, she can't tolerate certain textures. Tags on a top touching her neck will send her off the wall. It took a few years t discover it not a behavior problem, but a diagnosis. Life was so much better when they were able understand and find ways to meet her very real needs.