The Listening Centres

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  • How The Listening Therapy treats:

    boy in treatmentProfessor Alfred Tomatis, French physician, neurologist and Ear, Nose and Throat specialist, has been a prolific pioneer in the study of auditory processing and language development for the past forty-five years.

    The Listening Therapy is a programme of auditory stimulation. The theory underlying the Therapy is complex and multifaceted. 

    It states that listening is an active process involving both a neurophysiological ability and a desire to use that ability. Furthermore, Tomatis contends that the development of listening, which is the foundation on which social communication skills and language acquisition are based, begins as early as the ear becomes operational at around the fourth month of prenatal life.

    Tomatis believes that for a variety of reasons a "cutting off" of listening may be provoked as early as the prenatal life. The child may simply lose the desire, and soon after the ability to use his ear as an instrument which allows him to stay in communication with his environment . This interruption of the listening process may provoke later difficulties in language acquisition, in the ability to pay attention and to concentrate, or in learning. Tomatis describes autism as exemplifying the most profound manner in which listening can be "cut off".

    Autism, for Tomatis, is the purest form of " non-listening".

    Through sound, the Listening Therapy simulates the main phases of the child's listening and communication development. The sounds of music or voice are modified by an electronic machine called the Electronic Listening Device. The filtered sound is delivered through headsets in a pulsating fashion which makes it difficult for even the most reluctant listener to avoid processing it..

    During the early phases of the programme the child hears a recording of the mother's voice filtered ( lower frequencies removed) to simulate the sound of intrauterine hearing. This phase is called the prenatal memorisation phase. The music of Mozart filtered in the same manner is also used. It is during this phase of the programme that we have observed the following reactions of the autistic child:

    At first, the child becomes more emotionally expressive, laughing and crying often for the first time. The child also shows more affectionate behaviour, especially toward the mother. He goes to her more often, kisses her, hugs her and may keep his head on her lap for long periods of time. However, he may not yet accept her approaching him or accept her expressions of affection towards him.

    For autistic children without language, vocalisation increases. It often starts in the form of high-pitched and uninterrupted screams. Later these screams become more modulated, transformed into a sort of babble. Eye contact increases but remains intermittent. The child's attention span grows longer. Parents notice he can sit still for longer periods of time and engage more successfully in simple tasks or games. Repetitive body movements and self-destructive behaviour decreases. Fine motor functions are often observed to improve. Often the child is observed to handle social situations, including the classroom, better. Instead of isolating himself, the child will begin to seek other children's attention by touching them, looking at them or holding their hand. The periods of "autistic withdrawal" diminish in intensity and duration.

    During the second stage language becomes more appropriate. This stage is reached more quickly by those children who have some language but do not "communicate " with it. These children may begin to refer to themselves and to others using more personal ways by using pronouns ( "I" and "you") or first names. They are more responsive to attempts to engage them in communication.

    The programme consists of 150-200 hours of auditory stimulation taken at the Listening Therapy Centre over a six to twelve month period. The rate of improvement varies from child to child. The signs of progress described have been observed in about 80% of sample children who have been helped. The results are very encouraging.

    This paper has been adapted from: Opening Communication: A new perspective on Autism by: Tim Gilmour, Ph.D and Paul Madaule, L.Ps


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