When I met Dr. Ken Budke, I immediately knew he was full of energy, ambition, and innovation. I didn’t expect to be taken with a product he invented nearly 10 years ago, the bCalm.
As a dentist for 38 years, one of the primary complaints from patients was the sound of the dental drill. This is something that even we, as neurotypicals, struggle to tolerate. By nature, Dr. Budke, is a helper. He continually wanted to make experiences better for his patients – and eventually, those on the spectrum.
Dr. Budke developed the idea of the bCalm sound system in 2006. For a year and a half he consulted with researchers at Iowa State University to develop a technique and product that would alleviate the sound of a dental drill. The original bCalm had four different soundtracks from which patients could choose.
In August of 2008 the world of b-Calm and autism connected. A patient of Dr. Budke’s had autism and was quite fearful of going to the dentist. Dr. Budke wondered if the bCalm would help him be more receptive to dental work. He knew part of the problem with the dental office was all of the sensory input – new smells, bright lights, loud noises, different faces, and strange expectations. Dr. Budke hypothesized that if he could block out the sound issue that maybe new doors in the patient’s brains would open. These new doors would allow him to fill the previously occupied space with this new dental adventure.
His suspicion was correct.
The patient came so far with the bCalm that when he had to have teeth removed for pre-orthodontics work he was confident. He knew that the bCalm would take him to a safe place.
That experience coupled with Dr. Budke’s personality and heartfelt compassion for people on the spectrum, a new chapter began. He formed the nonprofit, Champions of Autism, an organization dedicated to connecting families, caregivers, educators, and the community with education, information, and resources that will help improve the quality of life for those living with autism and ADHD.
His story continued as he worked with a Waterloo, IA company to develop a bCalm app that can be used with any iOS device. The app is mostly used for children to self-regulate environmental noise. The app has 13 different preloaded sounds to help in a variety of difficult situations.
The b-Calm has been university tested. I don’t know why it works, but as a mother with a child on the spectrum, I don’t care. Dr. Budke recently afforded me the opportunity to give away 10 units to families in need. As I began to hear back from these families I couldn’t help but to smile and feel their relief. This is from one mother, “Kellen just LOVES his b-Calm! We received it on a day when he was feeling very overwhelmed, feeling anxious and out-of-sorts. The UPS driver brought the box up to our door and we had no idea what was inside. Kellen immediately put it on and was zoned out 🙂 He sat in the rocking chair with that on for a good 1 1/2 hours- and I let him. He needed it soooo much that day…it was such a blessing!”
And another, “He loves the pre-loaded soothing noises to help him sleep and keep any other noise out so he is not bothered. They are also helpful on car rides. He has siblings, and when they are all confined in a car, it can be very chaotic. To my son, this is a recipe for a meltdown. When he can block out his sisters, it makes for such a better trip, for ALL OF US!! The bCalm is heaven sent. With my son, who is on the spectrum, but very high functioning, it is really hard to find ways to help him, especially in public, because he really just is perceived as a “naughty” kid. This b-Calm unit has helped so much with keeping him calm, or getting him back to a calmer frame of mind, even while in public since there is nothing that screams “AUTISM” about the unit, so he feels very comfortable taking with him everywhere.”
As is with all things spectrum-related, not all therapies work for everyone – but this tool? The overwhelming nature of life can be totally alleviated in some cases and reduced in others by the use of the b-Calm. This product can truly be a life changer!
For more information about the bCalm visit: http://www.b-calmsound.com/
Nichole Zumbach Harken is a mom, teacher, blogger, and advocate. In September 2014 she pledged to write every day for a full year about her family’s experience with autism. Her blogs have been reposted on The Mighty, Godvine, Autism Speaks, and Wallace’s Farmer. She resides in Iowa with her husband and their blended family of five children.
This article was featured in Issue 41 – Issue 41 – Celebrating Family