Sports halls are large spaces where noise reverberates and activity is everywhere you look. There is equipment stashed away in all corners and so much to see. And gym halls have their own unique sense of smells too. It’s sensory overload for a highly sensitive child.
Overstimulation On Gym Days
Last year I wrote 7 Reasons Your Highly Sensitive Child Struggles with Gym and Swimming Lessons and it triggered me to take specific action to help my six year old.
We noticed that major meltdowns at bedtime coincided with days he had swimming lessons, or gym lessons in school. He started resisting going to school on the days he had gym lessons, saying that he loved the gym activities but the noise around it all was just too much for him.
His swimming lessons ended at the end of last year so that resolved itself, but the issues on days with school gym lessons continued.
Solutions to Reduce Noise Overstimulation During Gym Lessons
He’s in a big class so he told me that he was already overwhelmed by the noise in the changing room, let alone the noise in the gym itself. So, together with his teacher and the school counsellor, we started looking at ways to help him. This is what we came up with:
- He gets changed at home into his gym clothes (we are lucky enough that the boys come home for lunch and his gym lessons are both directly after lunch). At school in the changing room he just needs to put on his gym shoes.
- The teacher takes him out of the changing room into the gym earlier than his classmates, or he waits outside in the corridor where it is quieter.
- He leaves the lesson five minutes before the rest, so is back in the class before the rest of the class hits the changing room.
It seemed to help in that the meltdowns were not so ‘predictable’ (i.e. not every day he had a gym class) but he was still struggling, resisting and complaining about the noise in the gym itself.
Noise Reducing Ear Plugs for Children
A friend suggested ear plugs so I scouted around for something suitable for a child doing sport. Having been delighted with the Muffy earmuffs from Alpine Hearing Protection* I saw that they had just the product to try: Pluggies Kids (UK link here).
Since my son has been using ear plugs in the gym he has not had a meltdown on a gym day (plenty of other days but that’s another story) but gym lessons no longer seem to be an issue. There is no resistance to go back after lunch for his gym lesson and he’s enthusiastic again about taking part. It’s a huge relief.
He thinks they are great – they sit comfortably in his ear, haven’t fallen out once whilst he’s been busy in the gym, he can still hear the teacher but the excessive noise is dimmed. The same ear plugs can also be used for swimming so I kicked myself that we didn’t try these sooner – it may have well made his swim lessons easier too.
So if your child has problems coping with the noise levels of a swimming or gym class I can highly recommend trying a set of ear plugs!
*I was given a pair of Alpine Pluggies Kids to try for review purposes. No other compensation has been received and all views are my own, or those of my son.*