Children who have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often display sensitivity to auditory input. Other behavioral differences are also common. Certain sounds may trigger great fear, anger, and emotional outbursts. Even the thought of encountering such sounds can create problems.
Conversely, some children do not respond at all to auditory input. These atypical reactions are part and parcel of the sensory processing difficulties these children (and adults) face.
Fortunately, sound-based interventions such as the Tomatis method could play an important role in the treatment tool-box when helping children and adults on the ASD. In fact, this intervention has been in use since the 1950s in autism therapy.*
A number of symptoms and even causes can underlie auditory processing issues in those with ASD. The beauty of the Tomatis method is that it can treat a variety of auditory struggles.
Sound-based interventions for autism are useful in many ways.
For those with language and communication struggles, a listening program provides a helpful strategy for improvement. Instrumental music is a nonverbal way of communicating. Because of this, it can sidestep the roadblocks that pop up with speech. As ASD children listen to music, they gain skills and understanding on a number of levels.
The Language of Music
The language of music offers several parallels that aid in speech development. Music can be filled with emotions. It has structure and rhythm and marks out time. Instruments and melodies often build a give and take during a piece. Music has soft parts and loud parts. Hence, sound-based interventions help the brain develop new neural networks that will be important for speech.
These qualities of music, not surprisingly, are important in verbal communication. Through music, ASD children begin to understand the emotive qualities and the give and take of conversation. In essence, the structure of music helps them make connections to the structure of speech. Researchers such as Nina Kraus and her colleagues have published numerous studies showing the impact of music on speech development in children with or without developmental challenges.
Paying Attention to What’s Important
Through sound-based intervention, ASD individuals can also learn to pay attention more fully. The Tomatis method gives them a way to tune out what doesn’t matter and focus on what is important.
Many ASD children and individuals have been able to strengthen their verbal language through listening programs. However, I would also like to clarify that although of valuable help for many diagnosed on the Spectrum, the Tomatis method is not a cure for ASD.
Sensory Processing Difficulties
In addition to speech challenges, ASD individuals often overreact to auditory stimulation. This symptom may be part of a more general sensory integration difficulty. Sensory overreactions can include touch, light, and food.
For some people, oversensitiveness to sound has its roots in the “fight or flight” part of the brain. Because of this, certain noises trigger fear, and the ensuing anxiety causes the individual to panic. On a neurological level, they are trying to protect themselves from the offensive sound.
However, the Tomatis method helps the brain re-wire its respond to sound. How?
The brain has two listening pathways: the classical and the non-classical. The non-classical pathway actually routes the auditory input directly to the emotional part of the brain. Individuals with ASD are sometimes neurologically “stuck” in this non-classical pathway. It’s easy to see how certain noises can create negative emotional reactions when they are fed directly to that part of the brain.
Sound intervention helps an individual become desensitized to these noises. They can learn to calm themselves down through sound therapy. The brain builds new neural pathways with this method. It learns that these sounds are not threatening. Likewise, it learns that the sounds don’t have to induce anxiety.
The auditory system is closely connected with the other sensory systems. For this reason, sound interventions offer an extremely useful treatment across the sensory spectrum. Sound therapy allows both halves of the brain to engage and communicate in a more effective manner, thus facilitating access to the entire brain’s potential.
How I Can Help…
As a psychologist and experienced therapist in the field of sound-training, I am in the unique position of understanding the psychological components that underlie auditory symptoms. I have broad experience in treating children and adults with ASD through the Tomatis method. The article in Parent Map illustrates our work with children on the Spectrum: https://sacarin.com/articles-dr-sacarin-center/
You can learn more about our approach using Dr. Tomatis’ sound therapy for individuals with ASD and Asperger’s at: https://sacarin.com/autism-therapy/
If you would like to find out more about how I can help you or your child, please call my office for a complimentary 30 min consultation.