* N is for noises

music-148238_640Blogging A-Z: N is for noises.  I’ve worked with a number of kids who make atypical noises and movements.  Some of these kids are labeled with Autism Spectrum Disorder, others Tourette syndrome, and still others have no clear diagnosis.  Just quirky.  Whatever the cause, those unusual vocalizations and tics are a social challenge for kids and their families.  Sometimes medication has been effective, while other kids have had therapy for anxiety.

I have found that establishing a community of acceptance is one of the best responses to the noises, gurgles, repeated words, twitching, etc.  It may not be as easy to accomplish that in a large classroom, but the small group setting (such as pull- out support) is ideal for creating a safe place for these kids. These noises and movements are not something to “eliminate,” even as we hope they will fade away (and perhaps respond to medication).  For whatever neurological reason, noises are with us.  They should not be the focus of our relationships.  Neither are they an “elephant” in the room.  We can compare them to the wide range of habits we all might share, which range from repeatedly straightening hair or glasses, licking our lips, or even giggling when we’re nervous.  After we banish the “elephant,” a matter-of-fact response from the teacher establishes an important message of acceptance, as does a swift and firm response to any giggling or comments from peers.  Kids will quickly ignore random noises once an appropriate response has been modeled and reinforced.

Besides the importance of teaching kids to value one another, a safe classroom reduces the anxiety level of kids who make atypical utterances.  In fact, I can guarantee that noise levels will increase if a student has been teased, bullied, or reprimanded.  Some of my “noisy” kids have been the best liked, once they were seen for who they are, not for how they might occasionally sound.