Oh, my. No subject cuts closest to the heart of ‘drives us crazy’ as mouth noises. Little clicks and chirps and lip noises.
Constant clicks and chirps and lip noises.
Family members go from friendly to annoyed to screaming in just minutes. Friends scatter to the winds. Teachers lose their collective cool.
Did we sit idly by and let the mouth noises drive us batty? Of course not. Occupational therapists recommended bubble gum. Thick, texturally interesting bubble gum like Inked Bubblicious, which has a liquid center and dyes the mouth blue. Now, I always keep a supply, and smother a giggle when I see my husband walking around with a blue tongue.
Tiring of gum and its issues – how to dispose of it – I turned to Altoids. This worked for a while, but the gasps and comic expressions at its taste got old in a hurry.
I read about drinking thick milkshakes through straws to work the mouth and satisfy that craving, but our son refused to do it. Too much work, and he doesn’t like dairy products, aside from select cheeses.
Always curious about the motivations behind his need to do this, I asked him about it once he reached an older age. He admitted that he had no idea he was even making the noises, and didn’t hear them unless people made a fuss. Even then, he would forget and lapse into them again.
This threw a new light on the problem. When he was younger, and didn’t realize he was burping, we had him say things from comics (Calvin and Hobbes) like ‘barge coming through’ – in short, things that made him laugh. Then he’d be motivated to notice he was burping. From there, it was easy to transition to ‘excuse me,’ which, on the face of it, is pretty boring.
I haven’t been able to think of anything witty on the subject of ‘hey, I’m going to make lip noises now’.
So what we’ve been trying to do is focus on helping him to recognize when the people around him are getting annoyed. Whew. Big social skill. We’ve practiced listening to tone of voice. I’ve coached him – Now, listen to your Daddy’s voice… does he sound happy? What’s he going to sound like next? And will you enjoy it? – with some results, but it’s an ongoing problem.
Lately, however, we’ve seen some results. He’s taken to fleeing to a far room, if his Dad starts rumbling about noises. Smart. We set up a hammock in the backyard, as a sort of sanctuary. So he’ll ask if he can go outside. I’m so proud of him for noticing tone of voice, predicting what will happen next, and acting upon it.
In short, he’s beginning to catch on.
Does it sound cruel or unsupportive that we don’t just accept the noises? The rest of the world won’t be so tolerant. We want to help him develop the skills he’ll need to forge a way through our world. One day, he’ll apply for a job. One day, he’ll want to get married.
He needs the ability to deduce feelings – and their consequences – from tone of voice.
So bring it on, mouth noises… my son will conquer you, as he’s triumphed over hundreds of other little issues. And we’ll be there to help him every step of the way.