Here’s a familiar scene in my house: Someone opens the front door too early, triggering the frantic wail of the house alarm. My mother drops her shopping bags, the dog tears outside—but all eyes are on my brother.
Since I can remember, the sound of the alarm has been a cue for someone to locate Adam, who will doubtless already be several feet from the source of the noise, fingers jammed into his ears. There he will stand, stock-still, wide-eyed, until he knows the noise is gone. Adam hates the alarm. The sensory experience overloads him. But once we’re back inside he will seek out a totally different kind of noise—one that to the rest of us can seem just as bad, but to him is a sanctuary.
My brother is on the autistic spectrum, and for as long as I can remember this has revealed itself in his affinity with home technologies (except for the alarm). He likes other machinery, too—trains, cars, boats, planes—but the technologies at home are those he can use to build a fortress around himself. This fortress is a place of multimedia and high volume, of flashing screens and multiple channels. He follows motorsport obsessively, has an extensive collection of games, and expresses a defined musical preference either for Queen or The Shadows—which have both become part of our home’s eclectic soundtrack. He may shy away from the sound of an alarm, but his appetite for other kinds of sound can be overwhelming. In a perfect outward symbol of his desire for technological saturation, Adam always wears two watches, one on each arm.