(c) Melinda Smith 2011

autistic child with acute auditory processing disorder

In Autism Poem on August 7, 2011 at 11:14 pm

So here is the poem that led to me writing this book. It got lots of feedback wherever it went, and even won a prize.  I started to feel like there was a lot more where that came from. New Zealand poet and doctor Glenn Colquhoun saw a (much longer) early draft and told me it needed to be a whole collection of poems. I agreed. So did the ACT Government – they gave me a grant to work on it one day a week. Now I am writing it lots of brothers and sisters. The full CircleQuirk collection of autism poems is coming out in April 2012.

This particular poem explores the frightening and bewildering world of an autistic child, assaulted by everyday sounds most of us don’t even notice. Some of what happens in the poem has happened to my son, the rest has happened to children I know.

autistic child with acute auditory processing disorder

in the foetal position in the museum toilets, hands clamped over my ears, shrieking
trying to say there’s a dryer, there’s a dryer, any second now someone will set it off
the sound will be a faceful of boiling water

I’m sorry, your patient explanations are not getting through. It’s a very bad line.

at the indoor swimming pool, crouched behind the waterslide, poo-ing into my damp trunks
trying to say I have to get out, the echoes are attacking me in four dimensions, I’m on a bad trip and I can’t come down

at the washing line, moaning and trying to burrow under the grass
trying to say there’s a bird, there’s a bird, it’s going to swoop down and screech in my ear
the sound will ice-pick my skull

Your cognitive behaviour therapy is not getting through at all. It is a very bad line.

at a birthday party, buried under cushions and wailing like a siren
trying to say I can’t stand it, the music and the voices are tearing at me, pecking me apart

in my bedroom after school, kicking my baby sister in the face
trying to say go away, go away, you’re noisy, you’re unpredictable
I’ve been clinging to a cliff face for six hours and you’re dangling yourself from my ankles

sprinting straight into traffic, terrified of a toy poodle on the footpath
trying to say there’s a dog, there’s a dog, it’s going to bark
the sound will slug me like a sandpaper boxing glove

Your elaborate reward and punishment system, your guilt trips, your lectures, your bellowing and tears aren’t getting through either. This is a very bad line.

Published in Quadrant magazine, Jan-Feb 2011

  1. Oh, Melinda! I’ve read this before, but it still brings tears to my eyes. How many times before our children were diagnosed did we witness this panicked behavior and not understand where it was coming from? It breaks my heart to think of your child and mine trying to tell us what was going on in their world, and their message didn’t get through to us either–it was a very bad line! I think we have a better connection now, though. All the best!

    Debbie K.

    P.S. My husband’s a fan now, too!

  2. Hi just reading this I think of all the times when Marco was a toddler and I didn’t know. Now hwen
    I look back on particular incidents I go “ah-huh”

    the “meltdowns” are etched in my memory because they were so traumatic. It was all sensory overload and i did not know. and the looks I used to get from people at shopping centres. Now I know I wish i had yold each and everyone one of them to “f*** off” because of their harsh looks and words of judgement.


  3. […] autistic child with acute auditory processing disorder  I explored some threatening and frightening aspects of living with hyper-sensitive hearing. This […]

  4. […] autistic child with acute auditory processing disorder […]

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