This article was adapted from brochures available from the IDEA Training Center & the Spectrum Center www.spectrumcenter.com, two excellent sources of auditory training.
Who Needs It?
Many children with developmental delays initially present as having poor or non-existent speech and language skills.
Their medical histories show frequent ear infections, no hand dominance, sound sensitivity, and avoidance of certain types of touch and movement.
Candidates for auditory integration training include individuals with learning and language disorders, attention deficits, pervasive developmental disorders, autism, central auditory processing problems and sound sensitivity.
Under-reactivity is also seen with some children craving sensory input such as spinning and “roughhousing.” Behaviors in these individuals are unpredictable; parents, teachers and friends are overwhelmed by poor tolerance for frustration, temper tantrums, shyness, or aggression that appears unprovoked. These are all secondary signs of one possible cause which is neuro-physiological.
What Is It?
The ear has a function that is even more primary that hearing; listening. Listening requires the coordination of several parts of the ear.
The vestibular system, the first sense to develop in utero, is anatomically and physiologically a part of the ear. This system is believed to be anatomically connected to the language centers of the brain, to the eyes, and to the digestive system.
If it is not working properly, then difficulties are apparent in language development, visual skills, and/or tolerance to movement. The inner ear is made up of the vestibular system and the cochlea, which forms primary connections with the rest of the brain and nervous system.
These connections become the foundations for learning and communication by acting as integrators and relay stations for all sensory information both from within and outside the body.
If these connections are disturbed as they are when an ear infection occurs, the inner ear cannot sort and organize information efficiently. The result is poor listening which impacts on higher level functions such as communication and social skills.
How Is It Done?
Auditory integration training (AIT) is an intervention developed to correct or improve auditory hypersensitivity, and/or distortions and delays in the signals that interfere with an individual’s ability to process sensory information normally.
Some problems that it addresses are lack of coordination between the two ears or inconsistency in hearing the various frequencies of sound.
If the hearing in one ear is different from the other or if a person hears some frequencies better than others, distortions will occur in the messages that are being sent to the brain. The resultant behavior is distractibility, or difficulty understanding, known as “auditory processing problems.”
There are two types of auditory training available today, each named after its founder; both require specialized electronic equipment and a trained therapist. Practitioners may be speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, audiologists or special educators.
Each combines her/his area of expertise with the AIT. Dr. Alfred Tomatis, a French physician, developed this method of sound stimulation and his student Dr. Guy Berard modified it.
In both types the individual listens to music that is specifically modified and may be filtered according to the person’s individual needs determined by an audiogram.
Training varies, with Berard provided with 30 minutes twice a day for a total of ten hours, and Tomatis provided once a day for tow hours for fifteen days. After a break of 4-6 weeks, a second “loop” is done. Close follow-up and monitoring are done which include activities to reinforce the training. These can include occupational therapy, speech-language therapy, and movement games.
What Are the Results?
Both subtle and obvious changes are observed after AIT. Parents report a reduction in temper tantrums, sound sensitivity, hyperactivity, impulsivity, distractibility, and tactile sensitivity.
Increased ability to follow directions, pay attention, remember, speak, socialize, move, draw, and play independently are reported. Sometimes sleep and other activities are disturbed temporarily, but a return to normal is usually seen in a short time.