MUFFLED written by Jennifer Gennari is a middle-grade novel about a young girl named Amelia who has a high sensitivity to noise and certain sounds. How has Amelia worked through this sensitivity? For the past few years, she has worn noise-canceling headphones. Amelia is starting fifth grade and her parents do not want her to wear the headphones anymore. Her father, who is empathetic to Amelia’s struggle with noise gives her a pair of earmuffs. Amelia loves these earmuffs. They are soft and protect her from the sounds that make her anxious. On the contrary, the earmuffs also make it difficult to interact with peers and make her stand out. How can Amelia navigate friendships and learn to have the courage to take off her earmuffs? This book is a wonderful novel about friendship, courage, and learning to navigate different relationships at home and in school. It’s also an excellent book to teach others about sensory processing disorders, overall sound sensitivity, and neurodiversity.
When reading this book, I could feel the emotions of Amelia and really empathize with her noise sensitivity. As a speech-language pathologist who works with neurodiverse children and adults with a variety of sensory processing disorders, I understand and see this struggle on a regular basis. For these children, certain sounds can be painful and extremely uncomfortable. To us, these sounds may just be loud or sometimes not even noticeable. The most important part of working with someone that has sound sensitivity is giving them the language to talk about it. For example, when I work with children that have sound sensitivity, I pay attention to their nonverbal cues and teach them the words “uncomfortable”, “loud”, “I don’t like it” and then provide them a way to access a tool that will help them feel better such as a quiet space, headphones or a walk in the hallway.
To access free discussion questions for this book with your class or at home, click here.
Do you want to listen to the first chapter and check out the book? Watch the video below of author Jennifer Gennari reading the first chapter of MUFFLED.
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Jennifer Gennari is the author of MUFFLED (Simon & Schuster, 2020), a Junior Library Guild selection, and MY MIXED-UP BERRY BLUE SUMMER (Houghton Mifflin, 2012), a Bank Street Best Children’s Books of the Year selection, and an American Library Association Rainbow List title. She teaches at the Highlights Foundation, volunteers at 826 Valencia as a writing tutor, and serves as Marin County Co-Coordinator for the SF North and East Bay Region of SCBWI. A graduate of Vermont College of Fine Arts, she lives on the water in the San Francisco Bay Area.