What is Autism?
Autism is characterized by delays or abnormal functioning before the age of three years in one or more of the following domains: (1) social interaction; (2) communication; and (3) restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities.
Social impairments are marked by poor use of nonverbal communication, difficulty in peer relations, lack of social-emotional reciprocity, and lack of shared enjoyment.
Communication deficits may include failure to develop speech, use of stereotyped or delayed echolalia, and difficulties maintaining conversations. Social and communication impairments may also cause a lack of symbolic or imaginative play.
Restricted and repetitive behaviours may include unusual preoccupations with narrow interests, inflexibility to nonfunctional routines, stereotyped and repetitive mannerisms, and preoccupations with parts of objects.
Types of Autism
Asperger syndrome can be distinguished from autism by the lack of delay or deviance in early language development.Additionally, individuals with Asperger syndrome do not have significant cognitive delays. An individual with Asperger syndrome typically demonstrates obsessive interest in a single topic or activity. Other symptoms include repetitive routines or rituals, peculiarities in speech and language, inappropriate affect or social behavior, problems with non-verbal communication, and clumsy or uncoordinated motor movements. Because of these difficulties, individuals with Asperger syndrome often have trouble interacting with others.
PDD-NOS is considered “subthreshold autism” and “atypical autism” because it is often characterized by milder symptoms of autism or symptoms in only one domain (such as social difficulties).
Persons with PDD-NOS may demonstrate pervasive deficits in the development of reciprocal social interaction or stereotyped behaviors, but do not meet the criteria for a specific pervasive developmental disorder or other psychological disorders (such as schizophrenia or avoidant personality disorder).
Tomatis® with Autistic Children
Alfred A. Tomatis was an ear, nose, and throat specialist living in France after World War II. He was interested in the effects of occupational noise and began to do research on the functioning of the ear. His research went off into many different directions, but he is most famous for the development of Audio-Psycho-Phonology (APP) which in North America is commonly referred to as Tomatis® Listening Therapy. This is a listening based therapy that improves many learning disabilities, but its use with autistic children are truly amazing.
Tomatis® Listening Therapy takes place through the Electronic Ear. This is a devise consisting of special headphones, a microphone, a vibrator designed to conduct sound waves to the bones of the body, and the equipment that the Tomatis® practitioner uses to control the rest. Therapy for the autistic child usually involves the child sitting in a soundproofed room (where the child is usually provided with toys) listening through the headphones to music. As therapy advances, the child may participate in vocal exercises also.
Most autistic children are hypersensitive to sound. They have trouble shutting anything out, so they just shut down. For this reason, their Tomatis® Listening Therapy usually starts with sound desensitization. Tomatis® listening programs teach the child to use his ears, as opposed to bone conduction, for primary sound recognition and to shut out irrelevant noises. This enables the autistic child to learn through sound. Because speech is primarily learned through sound perception and imitation, this opens a path to speech development. As the autistic child realizes that he can produce sounds, control them, and communicate with them, he develops a better sense of self and is better able to interact with his environment.
Tomatis® Listening Therapy has been carefully developed through the years to improve various listening problems. Although there are other listening therapies, only those trained in the Tomatis® method using the Electronic Ear have all of the benefits of the Tomatis® method available to them.
When you choose a certified Tomatis® therapist, you know that they have received specialized training in recognizing which areas of listening are problematic for your child and using the specific listening programs necessary to improve them. A qualified therapist can go even further and develop personalized therapies using the Electronic Ear to benefit your autistic child the most.
As autistic children complete the various stages of their Tomatis® programs, there will be an improvement in areas not directly related to listening or communication. As children become less sensitive to sound, they also often become less sensitive to tactile stimulation and to food textures. They are more likely to make eye contact and to cuddle.
Your picky eater may suddenly be more willing to eat different foods. Probably the best benefit of Tomatis® Listening Therapy is an improved relationship with your autistic child. Results vary, but all children show some improvement.
If you have a child with autism, you may want to consider Tomatis® Listening Therapy as part of their education program. Contact Marina for more information.
Tomatis® & Solisten® are licensed trademarks.