Wanted: Indestructible Earphones

22 Nov

Timestamp: 19 November 2007 

I love music. I’ve been singing since I can remember and once, just once, in my young life, I was even offered a professional recording contract.  (Scout’s honor!) Unfortunately, being a minor then, I was not allowed to make my own decisions and my parents turned down that lucrative offer for me to step into the limelight. Still, a part of me can’t help but think…hmmm…what would have turned out different if I had?

Despite that minor glitch in my otherwise predictably orderly life, I continued to love music. And it’s no surprise that I found a husband who nurtured the same interest.  Truth to tell, my husband can do a mean rendition of Bryan Adams’ “Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman?” (The line “when you see your unborn children in her eyes, you know you really love a woman,” completely floors me. Such poetry in a song! But I digress…)  And it came as no surprise, too, that our offspring carried the same genetic predisposition for music. Alex, my firstborn, is a natural baritone, with a deep love for theater music, the opera, and a little of Taylor Hicks’ soul.

Silence began to fill the house when the little one came along.

Alphonse, even at infancy, was highly sensitive to sound. He could not tolerate loud music and he went bonkers when noise overwhelmed him. More often than not, he would cringe in fear and cover his ears when something particularly loud and offensive was within auditory range. When that wasn’t enough, he would go into a fullblown rampage, destroying everything within reach of his hands, wreaking havoc and chaos in our lives. When he was unreachable in his tantrums, we learned to quiet down and diminish our sounds. As the music and noise of ordinary life were turned down in our home, we found out, sadly, that the laughter died too.  Thankfully, over the years, we’ve been able to desensitize his hearing and slowly, the music has returned back into our lives.

Despite his limitations in communication, Alphonse can readily give feedback on what type of music he wants. Josh Groban’s first album, Josh Groban, was a shoo in. So too, Sheryl Crow’s Wildflower album. Andrea Bocelli’s Amore is a Yes. Sharon Cuneta’s Isn’t It Romantic is a Yes. We soon found out that easy listening songs are okay, but he readily grunts his dissent with rock music. His favorite yet? The soundtrack of Joseph, King of Dreams. This one never fails to soothe him.

Because of his sensory issues, we were afraid to let him come near his brother’s iPod or mine. We were afraid that the iPod would somehow channel sounds a little too forcefully on his sensory-excitable hearing. But having read one mom’s account of how her son was able to  deal with his sound hypersensitivity with an iPod , we crossed our fingers and for once, gladly let him use Alex’s old iPod nano. IT WORKED! (♥Thank you, Mom-NOS!♥)

Alphonse enjoying the iPod

Where Alphonse would shout and scream at the top of his lungs when the noise of our home overwhelms him (sometimes, just the drone of the vacuum or the blender is enough to unhinge him), we show him the iPod and in an instant, he quiets down, asks for the earphones (by pointing, so, remind me to make a PECS card of it)), slips them on, and smiles as the music fills his ears. He is a completely different child with the music that he loves.

Ah, but as usual, nothing is ever as easy as pie. Just this weekend, Alphonse was using the iPod while we were waiting for his father to come get us in the car. Alex wanted to lie down on Alphonse’s lap because he was drowsy with sleep. I cautioned him against doing that. Alex is sooo big compared to his younger brother: Alphonse might not appreciate the extra weight on his lap. As unpredictable as autism is, I can predict certain instances that are most likely to draw a negative reaction from Alphonse. Sure as the sun follows rain, Alphonse took a quick peek at his brother’s head on his lap, tousled big brother’s hair, exposed a bit of ear, and … nipped it.

No, he didn’t draw blood but it was enough to make Alex howl in pain and anger. Alphonse jerked back in surprise and indignation, his face registering a look of “what the heck is your problem, bro?” Alex continued to sputter in anger despite my admonitions for him to quiet down. And Alphonse, angered by his brother’s reaction, took the earphones off and ripped it in four pieces. (Picture only shows three; these were all I retrieved from the trash.) 


Then, he smiled sweetly at me.

Oh, well. Guess we only have to look for indestructible earphones for the iPod now.


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