Sensory Integration Disorder
The Auditory Sense
Watch Your Tone of Voice by Terri Mauro
The right tone of voice may help your child tune in to what you’re saying and distinguish your words from the sounds around him. The wrong tone of voice may add to the load of stress that comes with too much information flooding the auditory sense. Tuning into the sounds that your child finds intriguing and the ones he finds stressful can help you communicate without confrontation.
Whispering, for example, is a surprisingly good way to get your child’s attention. He’ll have to stop and really listen to understand what you have to say. Other attention-grabbers include goofy motions, funny voices, and silly statements. Television and video games offer endless variety to your child; to compete, you may want to do the same.
Emotion in Motion
It may seem to you that the only way to get your child’s attention is to get angry. The volume and pitch of your voice when you’re mad may indeed raise a reaction. Whether it’s the reaction you want, and whether you’ll be able to respond appropriately, is another matter entirely.
A child who has been ignoring you because the sound around her is overwhelming may be thrown completely into overload by the strong emotion in your voice. She may have no idea why you’re so upset, since she hasn’t been ignoring you on purpose, and feel attacked by your angry voice. You’ll likely spend more time calming the both of you down than you would have if you’d kept your temper.
Make homework a “whatever works” situation. If your child is able to study effectively with the television on, allow that to continue as long as the work does. Although you might feel that you would be too distracted in that situation, your child may have a whole different way of processing; it may even make him more alert.
A child who hasn’t responded because of undersensitivity to auditory information may be equally baffled by the sudden burst of anger being directed her way and will likely give you a good argument in return. To her mind, your reaction is surprising and all out of proportion; to your mind, her reaction may seem to be a whole lot of attitude. Nothing good can come of this particular interaction.
If at all possible, try to keep emotion out of your voice. A good tone of voice for getting your child’s attention might be the same one you’d use for your dog: sharp but not judgmental, commanding but not unkind. Keep the wording similar, too. The fewer words for your child to figure out, the better. Once you have your child’s attention and have helped him tune out other information and tune in to you, you may be able to go into more detail. But for starters, follow the “Sit! Stay!” model.