Monday, July 18, 2011

The Price of Peace and Quiet

I recently mentioned that Kai has been making loud, very annoying snorting sounds lately, the frequency and severity of which had increased when we put him on ADHD medication. It also seemed worse when he was feeling stress, leading me to doubt that it was purely a physical problem.

When we took him off the drug last week, the frequency of the snorting decreased, though it did not disappear entirely.

At its worst, his school contacted us, wondering if it was a physical problem, so we made an appointment to have him checked by an Ear/Nose/Throat (ENT) specialist.

We couldn’t get an appointment right away but we finally saw the ENT this past Friday. He said that there was no physical reason for Kai to be making the snorting sound. In his opinion, it was a voluntary act. He recommended that we see a behavioral specialist to work with him not to do that anymore.

That evening, Kai found a penny and added it to his piggy bank. He then took out all the coins from the piggy to see how many he had accumulated. Before long, he was trying to organize them, seeing what year each was from.

That gave my wife an idea. Kai could earn a penny every time he went ten minutes without snorting or loudly clearing his throat. (A soft clearing was acceptable). Kai was eager to begin.

At first, he forgot and snorted and then we would remind him of his opportunity to earn pennies. And by the end of the evening, he had added a few to his collection.

The next day, he snorted a few times early in the morning, but then went the whole rest of the day without doing so again. He was really motivated.

With Mom’s help, he created a timeline chart and taped all of his pennies to it, with the oldest penny to the left and the pennies dated 2011 to the right. He even allowed room on his chart to go all the way up to the year 2060. I laugh at the thought of him still collecting pennies over the next fifty years.

On Sunday, he again went most of the day without snorting. He had accumulated dozens of pennies over the weekend.

All these months, asking him to stop snorting had no effect. Yelling at him to stop snorting had minimal effect. But the chance to earn something that he desires has had a great effect.

Who says that a penny isn’t worth anything these days? For us, it bought us peace and quiet. Now that is a bargain.


  1. My son used to snort also. He doesn't do it so much now. His tics move from one to another and gradually decrease in frequency. I went through years of the same thing when I was young. Whether I had merely outgrown them...or if it was the direct result of heavily increased exercise...I don't know (although the timing of it indicates the increased exercise). Not too long after I turned 13 yrs...almost all of my tics disappeared...both verbal and physical.

    A unique incident happened a few months ago at a local grocery store (as my wife told me). My wife, and Alex, were waiting in line. Alex, who was snorting (it has since almost disappeared) was asked by a well meaning checkout clerk (she thought he was playing around) if he was a little piggy. Alex looked at her, without malice, and stated in a neutral tone and in a scholarly manner that it was his physical tic and that he had no control over it. My wife said the clerk turned red and Alex just continued as if nothing had happened.

    I had explained long ago to Alex about the nature of the I had them at his age...and what I had done to relieve myself of them (how I had, at first, switched from noticeable ones to silent ones...and how I had finally gotten rid of the urges completely).

  2. That is very interesting to hear of your own experience, as well as your son's. We are still not sure if Kai's snorting is a tic or other uncontrollable behavior, or something that he can stop if he focuses on it. It seems from our "penny" experiment that he can control it, whereas with your son it sounds like it was out of his control.

  3. With both my son and I, it is/was a compulsion. When we tried to control could be done with effort...however, as soon as we stopped thinking of would return. I would feel increasingly uncomfortable until I relieved the internal tension in some manner (and so I merely switched my tics to more hidden ones).

    Either way...Kai seems to have found a way to deal with the situation. I am happy for him. My son still loves to categorize things also. That can be a great strength later in life.

  4. Thanks for the insight. I have a feeling that Kai's snorting is also a compulsion. He is able to control it for now as he is really thinking of it, but it may return later as the motivation of the pennies fade. Or, perhaps, like you, he may switch to other tics.

  5. Motivation is the key
    WHat a great idea

  6. We are still seeing if it will have long-term affects, but in the short term this definitely made him more aware of his snorting.


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