Dealing with sensory issues at university

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Dots
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18 Oct 2011, 8:52 pm

I deal with most sound sensitivity problems by wearing headphones. I wear them everywhere, and if I can't wear them because I'm in class or am around people who expect me to be social, I will have them close by just in case. I used to be able to take them off at home, but now that I live with other people, I'm usually using headphones to block out their noise.

I'm wondering if anyone has this particular sensory issue though: When I'm typing on a computer, the noise doesn't bother me, but when I'm sitting in a lecture hall listening to the professor, I get incredibly distracted by the noise of other people typing on their laptops.

I have accommodations at school to write tests in a group of less than 10 people, and usually that helps, but last week when I wrote an exam, the person sitting next to me was writing his exam on a computer. So I was trying to read some very confusingly worded questions, but all I could hear was typing. I ended up writing the test while plugging my ears with my fingers.

Maybe next time I meet with my accommodations specialist, I will ask her if I can write tests in a room alone. I got to write a test in a room alone last year and it helped so much.

Does anyone have any suggestions on how to deal with the background noise during lectures though? I can't plug my ears in class, I need to listen to the professor. And is this sensory sensitivity typical of someone on the spectrum?


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TheBicyclingGuitarist
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18 Oct 2011, 9:13 pm

I found it best for me to be near the front of the class so I'm closer to the teacher and the blackboard and most of the other students are behind me. It is still distracting, yes, but not nearly so bad as when I sat in the middle or back of the classroom. I know there isn't reserved seating in most classrooms, but maybe your accommodations specialist could help make this happen?

Also, if the other students are being loud enough to distract you from what the teacher is saying, perhaps ask the teacher (privately) to say something about it in class without identifying who complained so you won't get picked on.


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Dots
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18 Oct 2011, 10:45 pm

I actually a few weeks ago moved my usual seat from the front of the classroom to the back of the classroom, because of the way the lecture chairs are arranged - there is more leg room at the back. I'm short, so it's not like I need leg room, but I feel less suffocated when the people in front of me aren't sitting practically on my lap.

If Temple Grandin can design better cattle handling equipment then surely I can design a better lecture hall.

I can't ask the teacher to ask the class to be quiet, because the sound that's bugging me is the clicking of their computer keyboards. It's the typing noise that's bothering me. Sometimes there are people around me talking, which makes me mad, but for some reason I find the computer typing noises to be even more frustrating than people talking.

I guess all I can really do is just try and ignore the typing noises. I'm really just wondering if this sensitivity is really weird, or maybe typical for a person on the spectrum.


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TheBicyclingGuitarist
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19 Oct 2011, 4:52 am

I understand now about the clickety clackety sound of their typing not being something that can be stopped. Earplugs would help with that, but then you wouldn't be able to hear the teacher. Not all people with Autism or Aspergers have sensory issues too, but it does seem to be associated with many of us. For me personally, my sensory issues are at least as much if not more of a problem to me than my social issues. Not being able to relate to other people (or recognize if they are relating to me) is bad, yes, but the sensory stuff causes much pain that makes life a helluva lot less enjoyable. It also distracts from trying to be social, and distracts me from anything I'm trying to do anytime.

One idea is attending class with earplugs, but bring a tape recorder to record the teacher's lecture for transcription later (if the teacher allows that). If the tape recorder is on the teacher's lectern or close to him, perhaps the typing noises won't be as loud as if the recorder is on you. With earplugs, if you are in the front row instead of the back you still might be able to hear the teacher lecture while cutting down on the typing noises. Otherwise, it does seem like you are cursed (as I am) by being bothered by things that most people seem able to ignore or filter out somehow.

Rather than try attending actual classrooms, if I ever go for more schooling it will almost certainly be an online option because of such difficulties. I know that isn't always an option, but there are more places offering online courses now than there used to be. It might be worth checking out.

Depending on how much help your school is willing to give you, perhaps someone from the audio visual department could video tape and audio record the teacher's lecture for you to watch later. Of course there would still be the typing sounds captured on the tape, but perhaps they wouldn't be as loud as when you are actually sitting in the classroom, especially if they have a microphone or something up close to the teacher.

Good luck to you and congratulations on your endeavoring to improve yourself. I wish you well in your studies.


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alexi
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19 Oct 2011, 5:42 am

I would say that it is due to your AS. I am planning to go back to uni next year (after 6 years off). And while I now have a diagnosis and better understanding of how AS effects me, I am very worried about how I can actually resolve any of the issues that I had last time at uni. The sound stimuli being one of them. Six years ago no one at my uni was using laptops in classes or lectures, so I don't yet know if this would bother me---- But I suspect it is exactly the type of thing that would. :roll:

Hope that you can find some type of answer, it must be very frustrating. If you have an understanding person helping with your accommodations, I would speak to them about your issue. I'm sure that it probably isn't that rare a situation and they may have some ideas. Goodluck.



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19 Oct 2011, 7:21 am

What if your professor spoke into a microphone and you wore corresponding headphones? I've heard of this being done for hearing impaired students, or those with CAPD.

I'm surprised you didn't have a room alone from the start. My sensory issues are milder than yours and I've always had room alone for exams.

Incidentally, I think the reason your own typing doesn't bother you is because you're controlling the sensation. Just like how I used to be fine brushing my own hair but freak out if my parents tried to brush it. Controllable sensations are always more tolerable.



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19 Oct 2011, 10:49 am

Across people on the spectrum, it seems that the sensory issues they experience are vastly different. I have no problem with the typing sound, but actually tuning into what the professor is saying is difficult for me. There are too many variables in a person's voice, and sometimes my synesthesia kicks in where I start perceiving all of the sounds in the room as one whole and mixing them together in my head like colors and then getting lost in the sensation. The external noises in the room tend to distract me, not just the laptop typing. I can even get distracted by the way the sound of the professor's voice echoes in the lecture hall. It takes real effort to focus, which mentally exhausts me rather quickly.

I don't learn much in lectures because of the distractions. All I do there is try to get down as much as possible and then go home and revise the material I have gathered from it.

And when I end up booking my accommodations late (which I often do because I'm absentminded) and have to write the test with everyone else in the big room, I use earplugs to block out the noise. I know that the sensation of the earplugs in the ears bothers some people on the spectrum, but I'm not particularly tactile sensitive when it comes to non-living objects touching me so it doesn't bother me. I just had to get used to it.


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Lizerina
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19 Oct 2011, 11:39 am

I don't have ASD, but I do have sensory processing issues with auditory issues being a large part of that. What I use in situations like that are these special earplugs designed to lower the volume but still make the sound clear. They're pretty good at blocking out some of background noise while still leaving me able to hear what's being said and everything.

They're called etymotic, I believe. If you do a google search, I'm sure you'll be able to learn a lot about them. (I would post a link, but I believe I read somewhere on here that you shouldn't do that until you've made a significant contribution.)