Smoke alarm phobia


Because my daughter has sensory sensitivities, particularly with loud, sudden noises, she had been very scared of smoke alarms going off since before she was 2. Despite doing work around it with a psychologist and having a social story written about it, she has remained petrified of them going off and it has got worse every year.

Now, we are at the point that I cannot use the cooker at all because she thinks I will burn something and it will go off. This evening I put her headphones on with music, made sure she was in her bedroom and calm and then went to use the cooker. She realised what I was doing and had a complete meltdown. She was hysterical, throwing herself around screaming, hitting me and herself, saying all sorts. This went on for about 15 minutes until I had to abandon the meal as it wasn’t safe to leave her to carry on with it. Afterwards she said she was so sorry and won’t do it next time. But of course she will,as she can’t control it. 

I don’t know how this will pan out in the future. It’s not her only phobia, but her worst. We can’t avoid smoke alarms, by law we have to have them and of course I do want them, but it means I’m in an impossible situation. I’m not even sure there is an answer. Has anybody else had similar and how did you cope? 

  • Hi,

    Not sure if this would help, but have you looked at smoke alarms designed for people who are deaf or hard of hearing?

    They use strobe lights or vibrations to alert you to a problem rather than making a loud noise. You can get doorbells and all sorts as well.

    She won't be able to avoid alarms at school/work etc. but it may restore a little normality to home life whilst she develops other coping strategies for her phobia.

  • Hi 

    I totally feel for you and your little one who has to go through so much. 

    Two things we did obviously as you have already mentioned one of it you don't want to it because of safety reasons.

    First we took the batteries off from the alarm and detached the alarm and put the white box in the drawer. I know, not safe not ideal but this was to gain his confidence and ensure him that we totally get his pain. As no amount of reasoning would work (he was 3 at the time and this went on for a year). We would put it back in place when he has forgotten about it. Yes there were days when we would forget and he would spot it and go hysterical.

    Secong thing we tried was  after a year of showing him some videos on YouTube about the actual thing and it's purpose. I one day finally gave the box in his hand and showed him its just a box. Again first attempt was not successful. He is 5 now and is fine with it. Still can't bear the sound for too long and would love to be anywhere but there.

    One more thing my son was always scared of white boxes with or without light on(dot). Super scared of hand dryers and white air purifying boxes in the corner of all the public toilets and also ventilation fans with sound. It took us 2 years still he doesn't visit all the toilets, only the ones where he feels secured.

    I used to take videos of myself in those toilets using handryers or wipes and show him over and over until he feels comfortable. 

  • I feel for your daughter as I am the same but I do not have ASD. I am petrified of anyone cooking in my house except me. I have the same meltdown if anyone else cooks in my house. maybe try get her to help prepare some food and slowly add more tasks to it.