By Christine Denise
Autism Mom and Contributing Writer for As You Are, a virtual clinic dramatically increasing access to early autism diagnostic services through the use of exclusively telehealth appointments
The first time my son Louie learned that he can make a sound by sucking in air through his throat, he looked stunned.
The feeling combined so many of his favorite sensory experiences.
Noise. Vibration. And oral sensation.
He was proud of himself.
And I was proud of him.
For me, watching my son learn how to find ways to satisfy his sensory-seeking nature brings me as much joy as watching him meet the preconceived milestones the medical community puts on neurotypical children.
It’s his way of learning how to cope with his unique sense of being in this world.
For verbal kids, vocal stimming may include singing the same song repeatedly, making animal noises, and repeating words or phrases they hear that, for whatever reason, help them process the world around them.
We call my son’s particular favorite type of voice stimming at this point in our lives, happy growling.
For a short while – thankfully – he loved to shriek as high-pitched as he could possibly get whenever he was excited.
And that happens a lot.
Every once in a while, he still screeches – especially when we are in a public bathroom that echoes, or a parking garage for the same reason.
He also loves to screech when he’s at an indoor pool where the echo is just too irresistible to him.
It also shows us that he is capable of memory – something we weren’t sure he had, because he is nonverbal and we can’t ask him about his favorite memories.
His voice stimming has truly given us a glimpse into what his little mind is storing – even though he’s not saying anything to us with words.
As soon as he sees a public bathroom door, or gets into an indoor pool area, his stimming starts up as he connects those types of surroundings with those sounds he loves so much.
Though it’s unpleasant to us and others around us, I try not to shush him when he screeches, but rather tell him how it hurts my ears and ask if he could be a little more quiet.
The best trick is redirecting him, quickly, if it gets to be too much.
Oftentimes, that means showing him his chewy necklace that also satisfies his oral sensory seeking needs.
Or telling him to look at something else.
But his growling is something we let him run with. It’s a low enough bellow that others might not hear at all.
Sometimes, he does it when he gets constipated to try and hold in the pain he knows might come with a bowel movement. When he sucks in air through his throat it helps his pelvic floor muscles flex, too. So, we know if that’s happening, he might need some fiber.
He’s also figured out that if he flaps his hands while he does his happy growl, it creates a different sound as the air moves into his throat to a pattern matching his flaps. It creates a more choppy sound, like when someone talks into a fan.
We know when he’s flappy, he’s happy.
And this is how he shows it.
Do you have questions about your child’s development? The team at As You Are provides useful autism screening and diagnostic evaluations for kids 16 months to 10 years old via telehealth appointments.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. This is a sponsored blog post, but all opinions are my own.