Wendy Aron

Sounds Awful

Going to School with Misophonia

Some schooling on a rare disorder.

Posted Sep 09, 2013

When she was nine years old, Terri’s daughter took the Cheetos a classmate was eating during snack time and threw them across the classroom. She told her teacher that she just couldn’t stand them anymore. Fortunately, Terri says, the teacher was compassionate, and her daughter was not punished.

Of all those who have misophonia, perhaps none suffer more than schoolchildren like Terri’s daughter, because they are the ones who must endure trigger sounds on a daily basis in the classroom without the capacity to fully understand their reactions to them, or handle the responses that these reactions elicit from others.

If you have a misophonic child, there are, however, steps you can take to help your youngster survive in a school setting. “I would request to meet with the school principal, school psychologist and classroom teacher to make them aware of this condition,” says Laurie Zelinger, a school psychologist in the Oceanside, New York, public school district and a private practitioner.

Dr. Zelinger says that at this meeting, parents should provide each in attendance a handout describing what misophonia is, as well as request that the school schedule another meeting where they, along with a multidisciplinary team of school professionals, can discuss the misophonic child’s specific issues and needs. (These kinds of meetings regarding children of special concern are state-mandated and routinely held, anyway.)

In accordance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), says Dr. Zelinger, there are two official avenues of support available to misophonic public school students:

1. When a child has a disability that affects his or her ability to learn and meets the criteria for one of the 13 disability categories recognized under the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA), the school is required to establish what is called an Individualized Education Program for the child. These IEP’s rigorously guide the school with regard to special education services, program modifications, and test accommodations.

2. If a disorder does not fit into one of the 13 disability categories, but still influences the child’s major life function or learning to a substantial degree, he or she may still be eligible for what is called a Section 504 Accommodation Plan. These legally enforceable Plans are tailored to the child’s particular and unique circumstances.

Interpretations of what qualifies for inclusion under the statutes vary from state to state, says Dr. Zelinger, but she urges all parents of kids with misophonia to attend and actively participate in whichever type of meeting—an IEP or 504—is scheduled for their child.

According to Dr. Zelinger, there are many accommodations that can be made for a misophonic child. These include preferential seating (a seat away from the door, window, or particular children) and breaks to leave the classroom, as well as a separate setting for test-taking times and permission to wear noise-canceling headphones during testing.

Terri, the mother of the misophonic child noted above, says that she has gotten her daughter’s school to make many accommodations for her, but there are some issues that persist. She says, for instance, her daughter’s school still refuses to put limits on gum chewing or eating during class, and as a consequence, there are days her daughter just does not feel up to attending school. At times, she says, she has had to home school.

To ease any anxieties a misophonic child may have about going to school, Dr. Zelinger advises parents to request that their youngster be met by a consistent and warm school staff member each morning, and that the child be permitted to begin the school day in a quiet room—not the classroom—to set the stage for the entire day. “It might also be a good idea to help your child identify some “safe” students in the classroom who do not have habits that are chafing,” says Dr. Zelinger, “or to help him or her try to resist distractions by learning a yoga mantra.”

And also to make sure all Cheetos are removed from the classroom.