Autism and Silent Discos

Greetings Earthlings!

This week I’d like to discuss my previous experiences with silent discos during my college days and how this phenomenon can benefit autists.

So what exactly is a silent disco?

A silent disco is pretty much what it sounds like- it’s a disco where no music is played through the speakers, but everyone is however provided with a set of wireless headphones to listen and dance to music. Each set of headphones has it’s own volume controls and allows you to pick from up to 3 different channels from different DJs to choose which music genre you would like to listen to- so while everyone else might be raving to EDM, you can rock out in peace. The idea originated in the UK in the early 2000’s and has since taken the world by storm, proving particularly popular with students and leading to more inclusive club nights.

So how can silent discos benefit autists?

One of the major drawbacks of the club scene for autists is the obscenely loud music blaring from the speakers. Sound sensitivity can be a serious issue for autists and will often deter us from dipping our toes into the night time social scene. Silent discos remove this barrier as there are no speakers, you can control the volume of the music (even turn if off if you wish to dance with no music- no one else will know!), control the channel, and if you want to chat to your friends you can simply slip them off and talk at a normal decibel without the need for shouting (bonus- no morning after voice loss!). Silent discos were highlighted in particular in the first season of Atypical to allow Sam to attend a school dance with his classmates in comfort. Light sensitivity from strobe lights can still be an issue, but I’ve always found that sunglasses in clubs can be quite beneficial (some may think you’re a bit odd, but most will think it’s awesome!).

I tried out silent discos in Dublin while I was studying for my masters several years back and found the experience quite refreshing. Over the years I have conditioned myself to the cacophony of club nights (I’ve always had more issues with sudden volume increases rather than general high volume levels- I am quite partial to rock concerts!), but being able to attend a silent disco where I could slip my headphones down and have an actual conversation with my friends between dances was a dream! I was in total control of my headphones and we could all dance together just like any other club night with our eardrums still intact!

Silent discos are a great way for autists to get out and experience college nightlife with a fraction of the stress, so I would highly recommend them for young adult autists trying to settle into the college social scene. Many colleges run silent discos so just watch out for an event near you and give it a try! 🙂

Hope you enjoyed this post dear Earthlings!

Have a lovely weekend! 🙂

Aoife

One thought on “Autism and Silent Discos

Add yours

  1. Hi Aoife, recently diagnosed autistic here. Read your whole blog and can connect much a lot of it. Never liked discos or nightclubs, but I did MDMA at a rave my 20s which was pretty useful long term. Looking back at it now, it was the first time I didn’t have a lot of negative assumptions about neutral interactions with people. It was also so loud and everyone was so fucked up there was no pressure to interact. Definitely not a clinical setting, and I haven’t repeated it, but was very interesting to read some papers about the subject since:
    https://www.spectrumnews.org/news/ecstasy-ingredient-touted-treatment-anxiety-autism/

    Also interested in the second wave of psychedelic drugs and autism research happening now:
    https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphar.2021.749068/full

    Liked by 1 person

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