Research Briefs


View Past Research Briefs

Noise in the classroom can be particularly disruptive for children with autism


Researchers find strategies can be effective to work through these problems.

While this will not be a surprise to many parents of children with autism, recent research conducted at Massey University in New Zealand confirms that children with autistic disorders are among the most affected by noise at school of any group of students. The wide range of noises affecting children include general classroom noise, school bells, machine noise from fans, vacuum cleaners, lawn mowing, and unexpected noises such as dogs barking and the sounds of construction. The lead researcher on the project, Stuart McLaren, concludes that autistic children process auditory information differently even if their hearing is normal. Noise appears to cause discomfort to children with autism and also decreases their ability to communicate and learn in a classroom setting. The authors have found some promising individual strategies that help kids work through these problems including the provision of quiet spaces and allowing kids to use a “traffic light” system (e.g., where green is 'I'm fine', and red is 'I need help') and they plan further research to investigate techniques to help children with autism to be more successful in educational settings.

Massy University Press Release, November 1, 2005