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.

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