28 answers

My Two Year Old Hates Noise/crowds

My son, a little over 2 and a half years old does a couple of things.

1) he shies away from other kids - like sometimes runs away from them shrieking and crying - and won't play with other kids when I take him to the park
2) HATES it when we cheer for him, or praise him too loudly for doing something cool.
3) doesn't let me sing - screams or yells when I do - some other people are allowed to sing, but not me

Anyone else have a kid like this? It's hard because when we take him to like, a party, or have more than a few people over the house, he can't stand the crowd. Say for example, we've tried to take him to a big show in the theater, like, a live disney show, and as soon as he gets in the door and sees all the people, he bolts for the exit.

Ugh! Any help would be awesome.


What can I do next?

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Hi, You've gotten lots of good advice so I will add two quick things: 1) my daughter had the same hypersensitivity to noise at two but at age 7 is much better. Her Dr. had said it was common at two and most kids grow out of it, and that seems to be happening. She is still sensitive, but not as much and doesn't react so strongly. For the crowd thing: If at all possible, try to get to the event early, before the crowd is there. My daughter could adapt just fine if the crowd grew gradually around her, it was entering a crwod that caused problems. Hope that helps.

I see there are autism suggestions, and I suppose that's possible, but he may just be very noise-sensitive. My youngest was this way. Cried and was frightened by fireworks, train whistles, someone talking too loud, anything noisy in general. He's not autistic and extremely bright. He got over the noise thing.

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I'd have him checked out by his doctor just to rule out any issues there.

But I will say, as a child I HATED crowds of people, and was perfectly happy to sit in my room and play by myself, quietly. I didn't like loud music or loud people, and it would actually make me physically ill to be in large crowds. Up until I was probably 8 years old, I literally couldn't go to the mall or the county fair or Christmas at Grandma's house or anywhere like that without getting a migraine headache and throwing up!

The only way I eventually got over it was that my parents sent me to boarding school for high school. There is nothing like sharing a living space with 60 other 14 year olds to make you get over noise sensitivity issues in a hurry!! Once I got past it, I was absolutely fine in a crowd. Although to this day, I am still happiest when it's quiet around me - I guess it's just the way I am.

So - barring any medical issues, maybe it's just how your son is.

1 mom found this helpful

I agree with the people who mentioned sensory processing disorder. I have heard it also termed "sensory defensiveness," and I have it. Good news: I was a wreck as a baby (couldn't handle lights, sound, motion, etc.), and I'm a perfectly well-functioning person now. I still don't like crowds and certain noise frequencies and certain types of touch, but I can tolerate them. I grew out of it slowly but surely, thanks to my parents acting like I was totally normal and just quietly removing me from situations that freaked me out and then trying to slowly reintroduce similar situations until I gradually got used to them. In other words, my parents didn't treat me like I was "different," they just used their instincts to know when to protect me from a situation and when to try to acclimate me to it. And it worked. My son is 11 months old and showing some of the same signs (though my Mom says much less so than I did at the same age), so I'm working with him as well. We went to a bday party this weekend that was a completely nightmare--he just couldn't stand the commotion and sound, so we just left. Once we got him out of the situation, he was his happy self.

I feel what you're going through (acutely!!), but my advice is to read up on sensory defensiveness/sensory processing disorder so you're knowledgeable about it, and follow your instincts with your son...and follow his cues. He needs to get used to these things at some point...but not necessarily right away. With your help, he'll most likely grow out of it. You can ask your pediatrician about it, too, but don't be surprised if they haven't heard of it. I find a lot of doctors haven't...

Good luck!

C. I think you shouldn't feel bad of his behaivor two year old kids go thru different changes.I'm A preschool teacher and a Mother of a al ost 5 yr old so I have seen this behaivor. I would recommend you to start slowly.If you want to take your soon to a show he need to now about it first like the (Disney show)let him watch some Disney shows on Tv that way when he's their he's exated of watching the characters on Tv. Also talk about first where are you going and how exated you are for going.Example: I took my soon to the "MONSTER JAM" that show has really loud noises cause of the trucks but my 3yr old at the time didn't mind the loud noise because he was so exated to watch the trucks.I did see a lot of kids his age crying that night.But as I mention before we talk about it a lot before going.I would recommend going to something he really likes and then telling him how much fun it was.

I see there are autism suggestions, and I suppose that's possible, but he may just be very noise-sensitive. My youngest was this way. Cried and was frightened by fireworks, train whistles, someone talking too loud, anything noisy in general. He's not autistic and extremely bright. He got over the noise thing.

This may just be a stage for him, but I would suggest seeing his pediatrician to rule out other possibiities like autism or asperger syndrome.

In the meantime ... just stop taking him where he's uncomfortable. He's two, don't expect him to be mr. social all the time or at all. So if he doesn't want to play with other kids at the park, let him play by himself. Don't push him to be social if he's naturally more reserved and he'll get there on his own.

He sounds like he's really sensative to sounds and while you may feel insulted that he doesn't like your singing he's not doing it to be mean or spiteful. When he does something well simply tell him he's done well and that you're proud of him.

As I said this may just be a stage he's going through and just adapting to the situation for now is probably the best bet. Plus he's only two and has TWO younger brothers to adjust to. But I also suggest talking to his pediatrian just to rule out any other possibilities.

Hi C.,
I have never answered anyone's request on this website before but when I read your question I felt compelled to write. My 3rd child, a girl, is going to be 3 in April but had the same symptoms you described last year. We have been to pediatricians, developmental specialists and occupational therapists trying to figure this out. She has something called sesory processing disorder. Basically, she gets overwhelmed by noises, sounds and sometimes people. The good news is she has gotten much, much better with occupational therapy. I am not suggesting your son has SPD but if I were you I would look it up online and see if he has any of the symptoms. It is usually linked to autism, but do not panic! All kids with autism have sensory problems but not all kids with sensory issues are autistic.
I hope this helps you and your little buy. I'd be happy to give you more resources if you need help.

S. L

Hi C.
my son is the same way, he NEVER EVER liked singing at birthday parties (including his own) when we first did, he began to cry, now I know we aren't great singers:):) but nonetheless, we don't sing at his specific bday. He's a little older now (7) and doesn't seem to mind singing for others, however he doesn't like the spotlight on himself (not when others are around) when it's just his dad and me, then it's ok.. I think he is just kinda shy. He was the same at shows and or events and never liked to stay for too long. I just figure everyone is different and perhaps my son doesn't like big crowds... I don't think it's anything to be alarmed about, just try and be patient and understand that your child might be sensitive to other people's energy and respect this. It's a good thing that he seems to know his limits and boundaries. Not every kid is going to delve right into things. Mine doesn't. I simply try and work with my son's boundaries while at the same time, I will nudge him to join in on something, but I never force him. Basically, for now, you just have to go with the flow and eventually your son will be able to verbalize how he feels about different situations.

Sounds like he has hyperacusis,an exceptionally acute sense of hearing, where the hearing threshold is exceptionally low. These kids often have a painful sensitiveness to sounds.
If you can accept this and try to shield him from loud noises/crowds/etc. you'll all be happier. These kids just cannot attend the kind of events you were describing (that he bolts from). You might get a PT (physical therapy) evaluation to see if there are techniques to desensitize him somewhat. Good luck.

Hi, You've gotten lots of good advice so I will add two quick things: 1) my daughter had the same hypersensitivity to noise at two but at age 7 is much better. Her Dr. had said it was common at two and most kids grow out of it, and that seems to be happening. She is still sensitive, but not as much and doesn't react so strongly. For the crowd thing: If at all possible, try to get to the event early, before the crowd is there. My daughter could adapt just fine if the crowd grew gradually around her, it was entering a crwod that caused problems. Hope that helps.

He likes to initiate the attention himself, if you, and others will let him.

Hi C.,

my almost 3 years-old daughter is the same way. Extremely attached to me, hates social events etc. I just had my Dr.'s appointments today with my 2-month-old son and I asked my pediatrician about my daughter's behavior. He said that she is acting like 3-years-old, and it is quite typical at that age. He also recommended to attend regular classes (ex. music classes) maybe 2x a week with same group of children, so she will get comfortable over the time. He also doesn't recommend to take her to noisy areas or "crazy" events. Respect his personality. I feel much better after my appointment today. The Dr. just reassured me that she is perfectly normal, just going through the 3-year-old stage:-)))

My kid brother was like that - all of his birthday party pictures show him holding his ears when we sang the birthday party song. He HATED it.
Your son seems more shy than my brother was. Perhaps you should have him evaluated to see if there is something you can do to help him get over his anxiety. He really isn't comfortable being the center of attention. As for your singing - maybe he has perfect pitch and you're a little off key? ;)
Talk to your pedi and ask for a referral.
Good Luck!

It sounds like a sensory processing disorder. Google it on the internet and you will find some websites that have checklists to tell you about it as well as the many symptoms that get masked as something else.

Good luck. I wish you and your family well!


It seems like you've gotten some good advice already. I work with families with a variety of concerns similar to yours. If I saw these habits in my own child I would want to have him assessed, so that I would know what I am dealing with and how best to work with his particular personality.
If you are on the Peninsula, drop me an e-mail and I can give you some numbers to call.

He could have perfect pitch. That would explain why some people are "allowed" to sing and others are not. If he is extra sensitive in hearing, all of the individual noises in crowds could be overwhelming. I have been the same way my entire life. I (for shame) used to put my hand over my mother's mouth in church when she would sing, because I couldn't stand how off key she was (I was four or five at the time). If he's anything like I was, he will always prefer quieter venues.

I feel your pain! My son is like that too. In his case, when we take him to a party he gravitates toward the more quiet areas of the house (which 90% of the time are places it is inappropriate for us to be like a bedroom, laundry room or garage) It was refreshing to hear that my son is not the only one who bursts into tears when the happy birthday song is sung!
What we do is maybe take him over early before things get too crazy if it's appropriate, then we either get a sitter or go to the party in shifts. I know how frustrating this is - my husband and I were very social before baby and this is hard for us!
One thing that has helped alot is he goes to a large daycare/preschool 3 mornings a week. It took 6 weeks for him to adjust but once he did, we saw alot of positive change.
Autism or not, unfortunately you just have to roll with the punches here - but try not to freak out about that- my son's pediatrician was convinced he was autistic. He has had thorough evaluation and has been found to be developmentally normal - it's just his personality.

There is growing evidence that sensory issues , autism and the like are caused by a parasatized central nervous system and/or GI tract.

My father has many of the same issues you describe, can't stand a crowd, noise sensitive, gets agitated in crowds or in noise. He wasn't always like this. He used to be the life of the party! He is like this now, because he developed Alsheimers. Many doctors are saying now that Als and MANY other chronic illnesses are caused by Borellia B., Bartonella, Erlichia, and Babesia. L-form bacterias that are hard to find in the body. They can be transmitted through insects and also humans secretions, even in utero. They particularly like the central nervous system.

Indeed, my daughter was born with thrush and has autism like issues. I have been dosing her with herbal antibacterials for about 4 months. (Samento and cumanda) and have seen a change in her voice which has always been abnormal. It was deep and gruff like an old drunkard, now it is more light and feminine like it should be. Her anger and tantrum issues have resided a lot. She didn't like to be held, and she couldn't pay attention when reading to her. These symptoms are gone. Her constant IBS and diahrrea is gone.
As the child grows the immune system can get stonger,Parasites can die off, others can take their place, etc. Hense the fact that children will grow out of some problems, and maybe grow into different ones later. Nutrition is a whole nother topic, but goes along with toxic load. I've read that certain parasites can cause depletion of vitamins that are crucial for the central nervous system. Vit B is one of them. You should consider giving him supplements, liquid b complex under the tounge, 2-3 times a day.(walmart has them.) Another one for the CNS is magnesium. Fulvic acid is a good supplement, it gives 60 trace minerals in an ionic base that can be readily absorbed through the cell wall. Our soils are depleted of many of these minerals, yet they are required for normal function and health. Some of them have definite antibacterial property , like boron, silver, sulpher, and bismuth, Just to name the few I have researched! there are probably more. Look up fulvics online.

Internal wormlike parasites, blastocysts, and protozoa can cause all kinds of disease states and symptoms as well. Below Iv'e attached a partial list ( I noticed many of the L-form bacterias are not on here.) Of interest is the fact that Blastocystis is an organism that takes up residience in the GI tract and affects and represses the serotonin levels!(serotonin is the substance that affects our mood, anxiety levels, sleep patterns, anger and agression, appetite, pain, and metabolism.)Since 90% of our serotonin is in the GI tract, this looks to be a very possible reason for high anxiety and moodiness. Modern medical doctors don't even think along this path, (I doubt they've even been taught much about parasites in Med school) and are quick to put kids on MAIO's (antidepressants) to cover up symptoms. Blastocystosis is more prevalent in California than in any other state. Metronidazole is the prescription med but I believe Samento may work on it as well.



Dr Mark Hyman and Treveor Marshall both claim that disease symptoms are not normal, weather in youth or in disease states coming upon us in aging. They all have a cause.
You can look up Dr Hymen online. Here is Trevor Marshalls link. Take the time to really look at it:


and more facsinating medical info :



Lots of good suggestions. It could be just his personality because personality is partially genetic. Someone else mentioned RAISING YOUR SPIRITED CHILD, by Mary Kurcinka, and I'd second that recommendation. It helped me understsnd that my daughter wasn't melting down to "get me" or because we were bad parents, but because she was overloaded. I'd also recommend THE DIFFICULT CHILD, by Stanley Turecki. He talks about some of the different traits, and how different we are. (I don't like the title--I'd rather title it something like The Challenging Child--these kids have a lot to offer, but they are a challenge to raise) I know the Santa Clara County Library system has both titles; I'm sure other libraries do too.
Start with those, and see if they help enough, or if you want to pursue the Sensory Integration issues.
Good luck.

Ditto what Sarah L. posted. What she expressed is exactly what I was thinking (I've got two friends who have boys with the same issues). Occupational Therapists really helped their situations.

You've got to read Raising Your Spirited Child. It has a lot of good info for understanding and coping with extreme personality traits. I was a kid like this. I learned to cope with a lot of it--I don't run screaming from other people. :)

Some people are just sensitive. It isn't something to fight--there is no changing who we are. But you can help him to learn how to handle things that are difficult for him. Whatever you do, don't tell him he is making a fuss over nothing. His hearing may just be very very sensitive and these things could be actually painful. He may not allow you to sing because he knows he can ask you not to and that you'll listen, he may not be so confident that others would listen to him.

Hi C.,

I don't know what this is but I think I would do two things: 1) explain the situation to his doctor and have his hearing well-checked. Not just with the thing the doctor looks at your ears with but really well checked by an audiologist. 2) If there is nothing wrong with his hearing, I would suggest taking him to a child behaviorial therapist to help him become accustomed to people and also to make sure there isn't anything going on emotionally or behaviorially that he may need some extra assistance overcoming.

Good luck.

He could be a "highly sensitive child". See here -- http://www.hsperson.com/pages/child.htm -- for more info. My son is similar. But after reading the book (referred to at that website), things have gotten much better. I understand my son better and am better able to help him cope with things. I strongly urge you to at least check out the site (and its checklist).

Hi C.,

My daughter was the same way at that age. My husband and I learned to be flexable and leave a gathering if needed. We have two older childern so one of us would take her home or out of the situation. I can tell you right now, she is almost 6 years old and she still doesn't like it when we (family) sings sometimes but overall can handle any type of crowded situation and is very social. We just kept exposing her to situations and willing to leave if needed. Hopefully you can find a balance and know we are all made differently and wonderfully! Kids, they are great - they'll change your life!

Hi C.,

I see that you've had a lot of responses, but my son (now 4.5) was just like this. It turns out that he had Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) and some speech/language issues. He has been doing occupational therapy and is doing great!!!

Sometimes they just get a little overwhelmed by all the sensory input that they're getting, and they don't process it the way that most people do. I would talk to your child's doc about it. Also, because he is only 2.5 you may want to contact your local early intervention program (in Sacramento it's Alta Regional). Prior to age 3, they have to assess him and provide services if he qualifies. Once he turns three, it's the responsibility of your local school district.

Good luck,

Some kids are just ultra-sensitive. My younger son was like this until he was six or seven. We would go to an adult friend's birthday party every year, and the house would be full of music, and joking, and adults he didn't really know, and when everyone started to sing "Happy Birthday," he would just burst into tears, and run out of the room. Every Christmas Eve, when we would go to our annual family party, he would hide behind me, holding on to my shirt, and refuse to speak to any of the adults, or eat, or let go of my shirt. Even at his own birthday parties, he was shy of other adults in the family, and other kids' parents. He is now twelve, and although he's still a little bashful, he has learned to greet people politely, and sometimes, now, he gets comfortable, and he can carry on a good conversation.

If your two year old is like my son was, he just needs time and reassurance. It's who he is.

Hi C.,

My oldest daughter was very sensitive too from the time she turned about a year old. She wouldn't get on the play structure at the park unless I was on there as well and no other children. In preschool I stayed for almost a year. Instead of forcing socialization upon her, I went with her needs and rate of development instead of what everyone else was doing. I too took her to see Barney Live at RAdio City Music Hall when we lived in NY and it completely went over her head. Instead of forcing her to enter preschool at 2 1/2, I wish I had waited until she was 4 because she was completely comfortable at home and I only did it because everyone around me and in my playgroup said it was the right thing to do. She is now 14, very happy, popular, loves school, serious ballerina, loves parties, etc. Your son will come around when he is ready. Having the addition of two new children in the house must also be extremely difficult for him and anyone extra is only taking more time away from him with you. Try the Disney Live shows when he is five. He'll enjoy them much more and you'll spend more time sitting down vs trying to make the kids sit through the show. In other words, slow down for yourself and your family's sake and give him 15 minutes of alone time every day if you can. It must be so hard with all that you juggle with the newborns, however, your son is still in the key developmental phase and his shyness shows that life is overwhelming him right now. I truly feel for you. It's hard to turn off all the outside voices telling you to push all sorts of things on your kids- loud toys, live shows, video games with violence, sexual content everywhere. Try getting some "Little Bear" books and DVD's. They are calm, fun, and allow a shy child to relax instead of adrenaline pumped.

Hi C. -

Your son sounds like he has SPD -- Sensory Processing Disorder -- My son had it at the same age (he's 16 now). I'll never forget taking him to a SF Giants game, and when they hit a home run and everyone stood and cheered, he absolutely melted down and we had to leave!

His nervous system just gets overwhelmed by the noise -- occupational therapists are frequently the best to work with this -- and he will likely grow at least partially out of this as he ages. If you need a referral, send me email.

All the best!


My son had sensory processing dysfunction, along with autism from vaccines.
Some kids have only the sensory issues and can be addressed with ocupational therapy; others have something else with it.
Search the iinternet for autism checklist.
good luck

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