Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad


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Black-chinned Hummingbird -- Moab, Utah, USA

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Pudding hums.  I’m not sure that hum is the best way to describe the sound that she makes, but I can’t come up with anything more specific.

I’ve read that many pre-verbal children hum, and that eventually those hums turn into songs, and then more typical language.  But Pudding is very verbal, and also likes to sing.  The humming has only appeared in the last few months.

This sound, the hum-like noise, is monotonous.  It does change pitch on occasion, but for the most part, it is a steady drone.  It is almost like the “om” sound that gets chanted in yoga, but much more annoying.  I’m sorry to say that I can’t stand it.  It needles its way down to my last nerve.

I don’t stop her.  Though it drives me crazy, I don’t stop her.  It is a stim, and a harmless one at that.  Like with her hair-twirling, I feel that if it gives her peace, there is no reason to interfere.  But honestly?  I can’t take that noise.  It is like living with a perpetually annoyed Marge Simpson.

There are various theories as to why kids on the spectrum hum.  It may be to block out extraneous noise, or to create noise when the world seems too quiet.  Some kids do it when they’re happy, others when they are sad.  I’ve tried to figure it out with Pudding, but I’m unable to do so.  She hums when places are loud or quiet.  She hums when she is happy or sad, and anything in between. The only connection I’ve really noticed is that it seemed to start during these last few months of sleep trouble.

Though I don’t stop her, I can redirect her, and sometimes I do just that.  I’ll put on music and encourage her to sing, or we’ll start playing a game.  At some point, it occurred to me that she is oblivious, completely unaware that she is humming. I began humming along with her (which she likes) or asking her if she was humming.  She still isn’t aware of it, until I point it out, then she stops for a while.

In the meantime I remind myself that there are worse things she could be doing.  I try not to mind too much when her little brother joins in.  I tell myself that humming makes her happy, and that is enough for me.

On Friday she was humming as she got dressed, and I asked her if humming made her happy.  I wanted to discuss things that make people happy, and how we all have different things we like to do.  I wasn’t expecting her to say “no.”

My response died on my lips.  What if she really doesn’t like it?  What if this is a compulsion she can’t fight? The thought made me want to cry, so I quickly changed the subject.  Much as I don’t like the sound, I could tolerate it as long as I thought it was soothing or pleasurable for her.  What if humming is just another thing that is out of her control, and making her unhappy?

The next day I mentioned it to Spectrummy Daddy.  Because she doesn’t seem to be upset when she hums, he was doubtful that it was the case.  So we asked her again, and she still said no.  Then we asked about other things that we know she likes and dislikes, and her answers remained consistent.  She does not like to hum.

So now I’m at a loss. I’m turning to you for advice.  Do you hum?  Did you hum?  Your child?  Should I keep pointing it out to her, or ignore it?  Is redirecting her pointless, cruel, or necessary?

A final rhetorical question: I’ve never asked my hummingbird if flapping her wings makes her happy, so am I only interfering with this stim because the noise bothers me?

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

May 14, 2011 at 5:40 pm

Posted in autism

Tagged with , , , ,

6 Responses

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  1. Does she *dislike* the humming, or is her feeling more one of neutrality about it? If somebody asked me if I liked blinking, or if it made me happy, I’d say “no.” I don’t *dislike* blinking, but then again, I can’t say that it’s a fun thing to do. It just is.

    My son (he’s 8 and has Asperger’s) has a lot of compulsions; the Tourette’s-style ones (blinking, humming, thumping arm on table) started around age 5, although certain compulsions (routines, sorting things) were there from babyhood. When he started talking about some of them bothering him (but not all of them), we read some children’s books about OCD, and that gave him a language to talk about them. We haven’t pursued cognitive behavioral therapy (or anything else) in order to control them (to whatever extent that is possible), but that is something we could try at any time, if wants to. These stims/compulsions come and go, come and go. He’ll do the touch hands-knees-feet compulsion for a while, and then that will fade; he’ll hum for a while, and then that one will fade. I think he’s usually unaware that he’s doing them — but not always. Most of them do not bother him (from what I can gather); some do (he might say he doesn’t know how many repetitions of X he’s “supposed” to do before he can stop), and frankly I don’t know how to help with those except to talk about them or propose alternate activities (which themselves risk becoming compulsions!). Or we might revisit the books for ideas. “Up and Down the Worry Hill” was one of the books; “What to Do When Your Brain Gets Stuck” was another.


    May 16, 2011 at 9:37 am

    • That is one of those questions I feel like I could wait years for her to answer. I don’t know. As I said, she does it when she doesn’t appear distressed, so I’d agree that it just is.

      I had a quick glance at those books, and they look great, just a little beyond Pudding right now. I guess at this point I’m hoping that it will pass, or I’ll learn to live with it!

      Spectrummy Mummy

      May 16, 2011 at 10:27 am

  2. You’re in good company. My son has stims that are similar to Christa’s child. Right now he’s shaking his head back and forth like a “NO” on speed–all the time. He can’t help it. Asking to stop is akin to asking him to cut off an appendage. He can’t do it. It makes it worse as he realizes others are tuned into it. We’re trying to decide if they are tics or stims but I suspect they’re a little bit of both. It seems to be a way to calm himself down so I grin and bear it as best I can. The stims vary and fluctuate to differing degrees based on his anxiety and stress level.
    I don’t know if that helps any but know I’m right there with you. It’s sounds so awful to get so annoyed with something they’re doing and they can’t help it. I feel guilty at times too. But then I see his stress and my heart aches for him. Sigh. No easy answer here I’m afraid…


    May 16, 2011 at 11:56 am

    • At some point you’d think I’d get used to not having easy answers!
      Both of my kids do the head shake. Pudding started at around 18 months, and would day “long hair” as though she was in a shampoo commercial! I don’t know either if it is a stim or a tic, but I suspect some weird vestibular issue is the cause. They both also cock their head to the (same!) side and spin themselves in a circle.

      Spectrummy Mummy

      May 17, 2011 at 7:29 am

  3. Lucas also hums, it’s a real low down in his throat noise, he mostly does it when he’s contented, either eating pudding or watching favourite tv programmes, or playing with DS. the only thing I do is occasionally ask him if he knows he’s doing it, and remind him not to do it in school. I don’t care about the humming, but I don’t want him to lose friends by acting ‘odd’! Don’t know whether that’s just my anxiety talking…


    May 16, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    • We’re lucky that PUdding is still too young to be singled out as acting odd, but that day will come if she is unable to realize when she is doing it. I already no longer take her to the library, because she can’t keep quiet, and shouts if I ask her to use her inside voice. Hardly the refuge for people seeking peace and quiet when she is there.

      Spectrummy Mummy

      May 17, 2011 at 7:31 am

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