The seventh chapter of Aspergers on the Job is titled “Quiet Please”. Here are thoughts on Rudy Simone and discussion about this chapter. Stephanie is one of the fantastic APC Coaches and Doug is the founder of APC.
Doug: This chapter was all about workplace noise and offered suggestions to those with Asperger’s as well as there supervisors/employers. I found the suggestions to those with asperger’s that could be helpful:
- Try using headphones or earplugs if your job allows.
- Assuming you work with a computer, there are software programs you can find and run that provide the necessary sounds for white-washing environmental noise.
- Stress and sensory overload should be looked at as a whole. You need to do all you can to keep yourself well and happy, for when your endorphins are up, you’re less sensitive to pain.
- Learn and use stress management techniques
- Soothe shattered nerves with natural remedies like Valerian or chamomile tea.
Stephanie: I found this chapter to be interesting and I learned some new things about environmental sensitivities and sensory processing issues. Two research facts that Simone put in this chapter was that many individuals with ASD also have been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder which makes it even harder for some to deal with the overwhelming noises of the workplace. That was a new fact to me. She also stated that those with ASD cannot focus/process sentences and conversations as easily when there is too much other stimulation going on and do best when they only have to focus on one sound at a time. This leads into the strategies you mentioned earlier with helping minimize those distractions.
Doug: Something I’ve always thought about workplace noise is that if it is just the noise by itself that bothers those with ASD. How much is it the stressors of the day combined with the noise?If the stress levels are increased to meet deadlines or interacting with others then is it harder to deal with this workplace noise that just by itself?
Stephanie: Based upon my experiences with clients I think its the latter. Sometimes when we are working on something my clients will have to stop what we are working on (if its an undesired task) because the noise is too much. However, if we are working on something they enjoy (i.e., if we are cooking and we are hearing the loud noise of the blender going), then that noise isn’t as much of a problem because its accompanying a preferred task. In addition, I have noticed that another issue with noises comes about when they are startling and the noise is not expected. I have found that to be hard for many people to deal with.
Doug: I have the found the same thing to be true, the unexpected noises can be extremely bothersome to many. That leads into the questions Simone posed at the end of the chapter: What noises set you off? What steps do you take to deal with them?
Stephanie: I think many different types of noises bother people and it all depends on their sensitivities. One person I work with is uncomfortable around balloons so when he hears one being blown up, it makes him uncomfortable. For another person, the noises that she encounters in her environment don’t necessarily bother her but instead are very distracting and she gets absorbed in what is happening around her instead of the task at hand. As a result she needs several prompts to be redirected at work. So I think for many, its very situational and is based upon personal experiences. In terms of dealing with them, I have noticed that some will avoid places where specific noises that they dislike are present and others take a break from their work until the noise passes since they can’t just leave the situation. Another person I work with has noise reducing headphones.
Doug: I think with our clients sometimes the pitch of a sound may be unbearable and then others it may be the loudness of the sound. I know one individual who has no problem whatsoever being there live to watch a monster truck rally (an activity that is obviously very loud), but if he hears a cell phone ring that really throws him off.
In terms of work situations and dealing with noises ,sometimes the best strategies to deal with them aren’t always realistic. I have a client who can’t wear head phones(wasn’t allowed to do that at work) or taking a break until the noise passed because the noises last all day. What worked for this individual is that he was able to work in a separate room with the door closed and this was enough to diminish the noise so that he was able to focus more on the task at hand.