Bud's iPod is not just a device for entertainment, nor is it simply a trendy fashion accessory. It actually helps him hear better.
In recent months, as the weather got warmer and people in the neighborhood began letting their dogs stay outside for longer periods of time, Bud started to have extreme reactions to the sound of dogs barking. He'd be fully engaged in playing with his toys, then suddenly leap to his feet and bellow like a war protester:
"STOP THE BARKING! STOP THE BARKING!"
I'd listen and would hear faintly, through the closed windows of our house, the sound of a dog barking a block away. Bud would run to the window and pull the shade, then cover his ears with his hands. At first, I thought he was overreacting and being overly sensitive, and I would try reasoning with him: "The doggie is in his yard. He can't come in here. You're okay. The doggie is just saying hello."
Then I read this post from Ballastexistenz and I began to understand the situation differently. Bud was not overreacting. The barking sound, though faint and distant to me, was drowning out everything else for Bud. It wasn't volume of the barking that was difficult for Bud; it was the effect that the barking had on him: shifting his attention, compelling him to focus fully on the barking, making it impossible for him to shift his attention back to any other more pleasant sound.
Now that Bud has adopted my iPod, he suddenly has a valuable new tool to use against dysregulating noises. He doesn't listen to it very loudly; it doesn't hinder his ability to converse with me. But it helps him regulate his focus and shift his attention away from noises that trouble him and toward ones that make him feel secure and balanced (currently Paul McCartney's live cd Back in the U.S.). He has gotten adept at knowing when to bring it with him on outings, and at differentiating between the situations in which he need only keep it handy vs. those which require him to venture forth with headset in place.
Bud and I haven't discussed this phenomenon, but I know he's been thinking about it too. Yesterday as I was getting ready for work I heard barking, probably from our neighbor's dog Jenna, through our open windows. I braced myself for the battle cry, but instead I heard Bud talking softly to himself as he walked past me.
"Jenna, you stop barking me. Where is my iPod?"