, As a sound engineer, I've long used such tones as White Noise and Pink Noise when working on balancing sound, checking room acoustics and more.
But there is far more to these tones than just using them for recording studios. They are in fact incredibly useful and helpful for many of us out there, from NT thru to ASD. Let's take a look at the basics.....
WHITE NOISE - In the simplest terms possible, white noise may be referred to as a signal (random noise) that has equal power (volume) at different frequencies. If you remember the old "static screen" on your analog TV that was a simple version of white noise.
To get the full warts and all (complete with serious tech jargon) see the Wikipedia definition.
PINK NOISE - Wikipedia has yet another warts and all definition, but to make it simple - pink noise is also a random noise, but instead has equal power across octaves, and as a result has more energy / power in lower frequencies
What's the difference between the two? In essence, energy per octave is how humans hear music and sound. It is a more balanced sound than white noise, some may say colourful. From a personal perspective, I find it "softer" less harsh edges in the sound.
There is a THIRD sound, it has been referred to less but just as important.
BROWN NOISE is a noise which contain all the frequencies that are audible to humans, boosting the lower frequency range. It is very good block out annoying noises, to enhance sound privacy, but also to treat hyperacusis or relieve tinnitus.
How does this impact our daily living and those on the autism spectrum?
The noises such as White or Pink Noise have been shown to help with improved sleeping patterns, and to help concentration. In this excellent article on Apartment Therapy the differences are explained and how they affect our daily living.
Using apps or online programs are an additional bonus for those with ASD. We have tried a number of apps and I am fond of using Noisli as it has a mixer for controlling levels of sound types, from water, to thunderstorms etc.
There are also some excellent apps available on most device stores. Try using White Noise on the Apple site, Coffivity (free download or on app stores) or Chroma Daze on the Google Store
If you want to have a machine generate the white noise in the background, a good place to start is the Marpac DoHM
As a musician in one of my many professions, I have taken a strong interest in the arrival - and subsequent development of - music making apps for various devices.
There are plenty of posts out there about various educational tools within music education, including those with special needs etc, but in this blog I am going to focus on different areas, mainly, creating music in ways to engage the user, whether to help them discover their musical genius, or even to help relax. Let's dive in !
So this is not always about the dreamy pan pipe stuff you may hear at a massage therapist (!), it also encompasses the idea of creating soundscapes that are both gentle and ever evolving. The legendary ambient musician (and renowned producer, and ex member of Roxy Music) Brian Eno, has always pushed forward the boundaries of ambient music. Together with Peter Chilvers they created Bloom, which is hypnotic both visually and aurally, with the user simply tapping around the screen to create visual "rings" that also trigger a sound. The beauty is that the patterns never play the same way twice. This may push an ASD person somewhat especially if they are used to rigid patterns. However, the visual is beautiful and I found it to be incredibly calming. Iphone and iPad only but the Android version is in development.
If you want to explore what Brian and Peter have further developed, visit thier website Generative Music I highly recommend it.
Video link to hear another one of their apps - Trope - in use youtu.be/HI1raqxrUdk
VISUAL MUSIC MAKING WITH BLOCKS
Yes that's right, it can be done, and done incredibly well. The unit that has held my attention the most is Reactable. Developed in Barcelona, this interactive system uses a series of physical blocks placed on a table with a screen top. Depending on where and how you place the blocks it sets off rhythms, loops, music and more. It's a game changer in the electronic world, but at 4,000 plus euro, it's out of our league!
Fear not, there is a version available for iOS and Android. Called Reactable Mobile, you simply use your fingers and move the virtual blocks around to create music.
There is also a mid version called Rotor, which is for iPad and you can order mini controller blocks to perform in a near identical fashion to the full Reactable.
You can see demos on the website link, but to show it in use, here is a video of Coldplay using it in their live show. Run by the drummer Will, it forms a backbone to the track "Midnight"
ITS A GROOVY THING
This used to be a standalone piece of software that schools and individuals used to gain an introduction to the world of music and composition. Now Groovy is an app and cloud edition. Using colourful images as musical building blocks, you can create a piece of music from scratch along a background as a timeline without having any notation abilities. I found that my kids became hooked on this very quickly, and loved learning via the tests and information in the various modules. It didn't matter that the music may not have sounded traditional in any sense (!) they were thrilled to be creating music via a visual means.
BEAM ME UP
The post wouldn't be complete without a little plug for one of our products. Beamz is a fantastic way to just use your hands to trigger music in the air. You can hook it up via bluetooth or MIDI to trigger music loops with the supplied programs or simply use it as a controller for your favourite MIDI app. Highly engaging for all ages, I've loved playing with this device, it gets addictive - see it in our store section under Music Technology.
In the end there are hundreds and hundreds of apps out there. This is just touching on a couple of ones that I have found to be very engaging with my own kids, and have seen similar results with others. While not neccessaarily following the normal lines of therapy, I am a firm believer in researching and finding out what is right for you. Sometimes it is a combination of research on blogs like this and advice from professionals.
More Music Musings to come !
Stimming Away – a view from a parent
Recently I posted a list of signs that your child may be experiencing sensory overload and one of the factors listed is stimming.
For those who may not be full aware of what stimming is, this link to Wikipedia is a helpful start - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stimming
From a personal standpoint, I have witnessed more stimming in my daughter than I cared to remember! But it also got me thinking about where there are multiple crossovers into other ASD related symptoms, and how the lines can be so easily blurred.
In the early days one of my child’s non stop stims was to check the undersides of her shoes to make sure nothing was on it. This always happened when walking anywhere so of course that would lead to others colliding with her and creating a bit of a traffic jam, especially at the supermarket. Over time, and with the introduction of medication this has faded somewhat, though it does it pop up from time to time which causes more amusement than anything – not just from me but also from her. She knows she’s doing it, and just shrugs her shoulders and says “well Dad, I AM Aspie” :D
There was a lot of talk at the time about discouraging stimming but I found the opposite approach was a better pathway for my situation. It is clearly a release of some sort, a source of comfort in repetition when the outside world is getting a little too full on, and ultimately, it’s not hurting anyone, so why stamp it out? Seems I’m not the only one to think this - https://kirstenlindsmith.wordpress.com/2014/05/16/stimming-101-or-how-i-learned-to-stop-worrying-and-love-the-stim/
Where the lines blurred however posed more of an interesting challenge.
Vocal Fry is in its own way, a form of stimming for some ASD people. Read the definition here - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vocal_fry_register
Someone brilliantly described it this week on the radio as sounding like bacon frying (bad pun) in the pan. Not far off it!! In my case, my daughter made the same sort of raspy, grunty type noises when under pressure, so it became a vocal stim. It got to the point where it was so loud that it sounded like a grunt crossed with a laugh – in fact, if you remember the 1980s MTV cartoon Beavis and Butthead, their laugh (if you could call it that) sounded EXACTLY the same – listen to the lower one of the two laughs in this clip and you will hear pretty much what I heard for two years - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mDqsgbtpDLk
Sadly though, there was one other type of what I would call stimming that affected her badly, and continues to do so. Trichotillomania is the involuntary pulling out of hair, and is triggered – like all the above examples – by anxiety. In this instance, it started when she transitioned into high school, and reached a serious peak following the breakup of my marriage. While the definition - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trichotillomania - mentions broken hairs may be seen, my daughter became extreme in that she pulled the hair out at the follicle and then ate the follicle – because she liked that sensation. She also ended up pulling out all her pubic hair and many leg hairs.
It’s shattering as a parent to see this, a child going from having wonderful shoulder length hair, to looking like she is undergoing heavy chemo treatment. Fortunately the school was excellent and encouraged her to wear a hat so others would not single her out – in fact the other students have been awesome about it.
This was a turning point – how to stop it? In the end she developed a way to solve it but putting on heavy duty bandaids across all fingers which prevented her from pulling the hair.
Now her hair is growing again – but it’s short, curly and very dense!!! Nothing like the long locks she had. Not to worry, I’m proud she found a way for herself that works, and this is and important step moving forward in life.
There are hundreds of types of stims out there, mine is just from experience, and while some may challenge my daughters as stims, I believe they fall into this category but feel free to add your own ..
With the school holidays for term three approaching, we thought about all the things we will need to be doing to keep our kids occupied and happy. Of course there are plenty of downtime days as well, but they do like to be entertained!
As we started researching ideas, we found that there are plenty of things to do that don't cost a fortune and in many cases they are free. Not everything will be to everyone's taste but it may just be enough to stop the familiar complaint of "I'm bored" !
These are written around what's on in Melbourne, Victoria, but we strongly encourage you to add your own in the comments section. Will keep updating this as we find more :)
Melbourne Airport takeoff and landing viewing areas – FREE.
We have been doing this for years! Not too noisy (aside from the rumbling when overhead) but plenty of action with aircraft movements. You can even identify the aircraft using the FlightRadar24 app to see where they are heading. Sunbury Rd/Oaklands Rd is one end of the airport and the other is Operations Rd (Where the maintenance hangars are) During Summer, the Sunbury Rd area often has an Ice Cream Truck parked there.
Crown Promenade – Fire Towers – FREE
Something to do on a Friday or Saturday night. Starting at around 6pm and every hour there is a spectacular display along the promenade with the towers shooting different amounts of fire into the sky. It may be a little scary for the younger children, but my two always believed they were water dragons and loved them! Often there are other displays along the walk, and be sure to also look into the Crown Atrium where there are often amazing displays of light, colour, and water, with special displays during Chinese New Year and Christmas.
Gardens and Parks
So many gardens and parks offer a wonderful sensory experience. Sometimes both are blended into the one area. A selection of ones we have visited include :
Hays Paddock – East Kew
Ruffy Lake Park – Doncaster
Frankston Foreshore Park
Wattle Park – the one with the trams!
Royal Botanic Gardens – Make sure you check out the Ian Potter Foundation Childrens Garden
Royal Park Nature Play
Or for a fantastic list covering all of Melbourne – check out https://www.facebook.com/MelbournePlaygrounds/
Zoos – During the school holidays, the zoo is free entry for kids – what are you waiting for !
City Circle Tram – FREE
Moving through the city and past many attractions, you don’t need to be on your feet for this one !
NGV – There are often free exhibitions for the kids in the National Gallery of Victoria – here is a link to the page, the current exhibition looks awesome, we are going to go!
ACMI at Federation Square – There are free exhibitions in here but be careful as it may be a sensory overload for some. The exhibition of TV and film and all technology is incredible and there is even a gamers corner, but there is a lot of movement, light and vision so for some people it may not be suitable.
Air Museums – Pt Cook – FREE – National Australian Aviation Museum, Moorabbin, $20 family
Two museums dedicated to flight. The Pt Cook Museum is on the old RAAF base and has a large collection of aircraft on display along with plenty of historical information and artefacts.
The Museum at Moorabbin, while requiring an entry fee, is one of the very few places around where it is decidedly hands on – ie you can sit in an actual 737 cockpit, a DC-9 simulator and many more aircraft. Being located at Moorabbin Airport (the 3rd busiest airport in Australia) means there is always something going on. And you can then decamp to DFO for a coffee.
Minitrains – Some excellent Minitrain rides are available at Eltham, Box Hill, Altona and even Pt Edwards (near Portarlington) Very cheap and a lot of fun.
The Dandenongs – So many beautiful walks through the bush to waterfalls and other places of interest. Check the weather beforehand !
Ice Skating – Being wintertime, there are a few Ice Skating places around. There is one at Eastland in Ringwood, but the best one always is the Ice Rink at Docklands. You can always hang onto a penguin and push it around for support if you are worried about balance. Make sure you rug up though, it’s cold !