Tomatis Listening Therapy (FAQ) & One Parent’s Experience (Case Study)

May 9th, 2003

By Lisa Ackerman - Jeff’s mom

This is an account of one parent's findings of Tomatis Listening Therapy.  Not all findings and results are the same for each family/child.  This document is to outline; what Tomatis does, how the therapy is done, for how long, and what to expect from a parents perspective. It is important to note this information is NOT from a medical perspective!

Note: Our findings are based on our son Jeff who has autism.  Jeff was 5 1/2 years old when we started Tomatis listening therapy. He had some sound sensitivities, significant auditory processing issues, significant speech delays, other issues and based upon some input, we hoped Tomatis would help.

 

Frequently Asked Questions:

1) Why did we select Tomatis? (versus other forms of Auditory Integration Therapies –AIT- and music therapies)

We did a lot of research and with recommendations from our doctor (Dr. Jerry Kartzinel) and we chose Tomatis based on his thoughts and our research results.  Another doctor, Dr. Ricki Robinson also recommended Tomatis to our family.  Both of Drs. Kartzinel and Robinson are pediatricians specializing in treating children with autism.  The main Tomatis web site is www.tomatis.com.  Also the DAN! Folks have written some papers regarding listening therapies at www.autism.com/ari.

2)  What does Tomatis do? (again, this is one parent's interpretation):

To summarize here is my interpretation on what Tomatis does -

  • It is documented that Tomatis attempts turns ON the parts in the brain that are off (Theoretically our kids have dark parts in their brains that need a jump start. Tomatis is said to help facilitate this process.)
  • Tomatis is said to convert left dominate listeners to right dominate listeners (i.e., most ASD kids are left-dominate listeners.)  Most of the auditory processing, cognition, response timing and other important functions happen faster if you are a right-dominate listener.
  • NOTE:  I AM PARAPHRASING HERE!   for the complete details, articles and medical findings go to www.theswaincenter.com or thelisteningcenter.net. Please read and contact the agency with your questions.  Like everything with autism – this therapy is different for each child.  And my paraphrasing does not do the therapy and medical studies justice, so please take the time to read and reserach. (NOTE: For those of you who purchased DAN! 2002 conference tapes www.autism.com/ari - you can find Dr. Jerry Kartzinel's review and studies of Tomatis in the Advanced Parent forum tapes.  You can purchase just that sessions tapes if you would like to hear the findings versus read the findings.)Please note:  We used both the Listening Center (in Pasadena) and the Swain Center (from Northern California.) The Sound Listening & Learning Center under Dr. Billie Thompson is out of business and no longer provides Tomatis in the recommended treatment plan. I now use The Swain Center also known as The Listening Center.

3) How Long is Tomatis?

Typically Tomatis consists of a 90-hour prescribed protocol. This 90 hours is broken up into 4 blocks with a 3 to 4 week break in between. It important to note that some children may need more than 90 hours of listening.

Block 1: 30 hours of listening. 2 hours a day for 15 days. A total of 3 weeks.

Break 3 to 4 weeks

Block 2: 20 hours of listening. 2 hours a day for 10 days. A total of 2 weeks.

Break 3 to 4 weeks.

Block 3: 20 hours of listening. 2 hours a day for 10 days. A total of 2 weeks.

Break 3 to 4 weeks

Block 4: 20 hours of listening. 2 hours a day for 10 days. A total of 2 weeks.

4)  What to expect?

  • The listening room:

The listening room is very large, comfortable room that can easily accommodate 5-8 children and Tomatis aides. The room is very “kid friendly” with bean bags, puzzles, train sets, and other interactive toys.  An abundant supply of books and coloring materials are also provided. There is no need to bring toys or activities. Many kids love to play with the new toys available and are kept busy during the 2 hour period.

  • The music and headphones:

Children listen mostly to Mozart and Gregorian chants via their headphones. The headphones are placed on the ears and generally secured with a cloth hair band to keep them in place and at the proper tension. The music sounds a bit like a radio station going in and out of frequency and will change from left to right ear.

Some time during the 60-hour program, the child will be listening to a person reading a story.  This story is presented similar as the music going in and out of frequency and from the left to right ear.

  • Food/drinks/bathroom breaks:

Children are not encouraged to drink and eat during Tomatis listening therapy.  Please make sure your children are well fed and have had a drink before they arrive.  Water is offered if they become thirsty and bathroom breaks are fine.  The goal is for the children to maximize the time there to focus on the listening therapy.

  • Actives:

Sometimes it is recommended that throughout the Tomatis listening therapy, the child will participate in “Actives.”  The actives happen during each session and are usually a 30 minute period where the child reads a book out loud into a microphone while the music is playing in the background. This could then graduate over time into chanting or other musical interactions.  Note: SOMETIMES actives are not done with a child. This varies child to child and is assessed in a complete evaluation.

  • Documentation:

Documentation is an important part of the Tomatis listening therapy evaluation process. Prior to starting a Tomatis listening therapy session you are requested to fill out a needs assessment. This assessment outlines desired areas for growth or improvement.  Each day I would keep a journal on changes or experiences with Tomatis to help evaluate the therapy.  At the conclusion of the Tomatis round you then fill out a needs assessment to evaluate change.  These points of documentation and listening tests help the parents and experts evaluate subtle and other changes during and after a Tomatis listening therapy session.

  • Tomatis Aides:

My experience with Tomatis is that the Tomatis aides employed by the Swain Center are extremely kid friendly, interactive, and experienced with special needs and typical children.  However, there is not one-on-one interaction for each child for each minute of the Tomatis listening therapy.  Typically, I observed the ratio of aides to children usually 2 to 1 or 3 to 1.

These aides are there to help and entertain each child in the listening room during the entire Tomatis listening session.

Note: think of the Tomatis listening therapy session a well staffed day care center.  Not as a one-on-one therapy session.

Parents can bring their own aides or babysitters to participate with the child during Tomatis sessions. Should a parent opt for this the aide and child are generally put in a separate room. This is done due to confidentiality and security of other children participating in Tomatis listening therapy.  (Not every aide for every child can be or will be checked by The Swain Center.)

I highly recommend that parents are not the aides during the Tomatis listening therapy. It would be best to rely on the Tomatis aides or to bring your own aide depending on your child’s individual needs.  This should be evaluated throughout the Tomatis listening therapy sessions and changed if necessary and as accordingly.

  • Thoughts on therapy time during Tomatis therapy

Many special needs children receive some sort of one-on-one therapy (whether it is ABA, VBA, Floortime, TEEACH, or others.)  During Tomatis the child is listening to some interesting music and in many cases, is really concentrating on that music.  Their body/brain may also be going through a transition period while the listening therapy is occurring.

Interaction similar to one-on-one therapy settings may not always be possible during Tomatis listening therapy.  For my son, he was concentrating on the music and following complex or detailed tasks was not possible.  He did best when his aides interacted with him to parallel play with another child, or work with a puzzle, or read a book. Sometimes, Jeff just wanted to lay in a bean bag and relax.  Some of the other children actually fell asleep while in Tomatis class!  Both situations are fine.

My thoughts during Tomatis listening therapy are to let the child have the time to absorb the music, interact with other children, and play with new toys.  If the child became self stimulatory with inappropriate behavior, that should be re-directed by your aide to more appropriate play skills or resting time.

5) Where do you do Tomatis?

Tomatis can be provided at one of the Swain Center offices in Northern California, or in the new office which opened July 2003 in Southern California or via an outreach program.  An outreach program is done with a group of other families they come to your area for the two 30-hour listening sessions.

We arranged this for about 20 families in Newport Beach, California which saved us considerable time for traveling to and from their offices.  This would also work in for any situation where travel would be difficult.

6) Costs:
As of January 2003 – the first longer intensive was about $1,800 and follow up sessions were $1,000. Pricing can change – please verify with the provider.  With the Swain Center and our Blue Cross PPO Insurance we were able to receive over 60% reimbursement coverage on this treatment.

 

CASE STUDY:

Jeff started Tomatis listening therapy round 1 – 30 hours in early December 2002.  The round 2 started in mid-January 2003 to complete the 60 hours of Tomatis.  We have also done two follow-ups in March 2003 and May 2003.

"Changes" to the child are expected to happen anywhere from immediately up to 12 months later from the first round. Jeff has experienced minor changes in being more aware of the his environment (visually and receptively), expanding his existing vocabulary, and trying new games and play skills.  As of today, Jeff has less sound sensitivities than before he started Tomatis.

When I first saw the listening room and the Tomatis process I thought to myself, “THERE IS NO WAY IN HECK JEFF IS A) GOING TO PUT ON THE HEADPHONES B) LISTEN FOR 2 HOURS AND C) STAY IN THIS ROOM!  I thought to myself "GOOD LUCK YOU GUYS! HE SHOULD BE RUNNING TO ME IN ABOUT 2.4 MINUTES!!!!"

I was wrong. Jeff loves what he calls "music class" - goes in, takes off his shoes (!), then leans forward for the technician to put on his headphones and the fabric strap that secures the headphones to his head. Then he says to the Tomatis aides "thanks for helping!"  He plays and sits in that room for 2 hours each and everyday. However, most of the time Jeff is concentrating on the music and parallel playing – there is not a lot of interaction. He is happy to go to music class and looks forward to the time.  This is pretty wild to me considering I did not think he would cooperate AT ALL.

After the first week of Tomatis, he listened to me reading a story to him via the headphones and was laughing, giggling and spurting out words like, "Oh no Eyeore!" and other funny comments then was looking for Mommy in the room. This was pretty hysterical.

During the second week of Tomatis, Jeff’s behavior became been anything but normal. He went from calm and sweet to oppositional, a bit defiant – so unlike Jeff.  These, I was told, are typical responses to the therapy and should minimize soon.   Within a week of his “defiant period” he calmed down and new subtle changes began to occur.

Some of the major benefits we have seen from Jeff since starting Tomatis in December 2002

  • Helping a friend at school with their school work
  • Initiating play (kind of lost after “hi” and “lets play” if the play mate is not pushy!)
  • Answering basic questions like: who did you see at school, what did you play, what did you eat for lunch today? Some delay but this is totally awesome!
  • Mastering phonics – starting to read with some assistance
  • Riding a scooter very well (in late December he could barely STAND on the scooter with one foot on the ground)
  • Beginning addition – loving it BIG time!
  • We are beginning to eliminate prompting throughout Jeff’s program – he is frustrated to start, but doing really, really well about thinking vs. waiting for prompts. (Not that he was prompt dependent – he was just prompt lazy on tough new items!)

Jeff’s Greatest Weakness

Jeff continues to have great difficulty with auditory processing and assembling an original communication. He now has speech but formulation of language is difficult. He can make simple requests to accomplish his basic needs (Daddy, it’s time to go take a bath; Drink milk please; let’s go jump on the trampoline; it’s time to go to school; I’m so happy; where are you) however, he is not yet able to generate a response to an original communication request.

With this progress we have great hope for the future. But of course, we are far from being out of the woods just yet. We are just thrilled Jeff is happy, his biology issues are improving and he continues to make progress. We are so blessed.

(Important note: it is very hard to note if it is the Tomatis therapies or the intensive behavioral or school or biomedical interventions with Jeff.  We know Jeff loves “music class” and we intend to continue along with this therapy after discussing it with our doctor.)

While Jeff was going through Tomatis, I went through Tomatis with Jeff too. I sit in a separate room with other parents doing the same thing. I wanted to experience what he was experiencing. The only differences I can take note of are: in session one, I WAS EATING LIKE A PIG. So if weight gain is there goal for Tomatis I should get an A+ for my progress.  The second session my eating balanced out and I feel like I am listening with less effort and my comprehension is higher than before.

We are still doing Tomatis and logging the benefits. Jeff was not cured of autism by doing Tomatis but I felt it was something I need to try based on our research and medical review by his doctor, Dr Jerry Kartzinel.  It was an interesting experience for my family.  I am hoping to see additional, sustained changes in Jeff and will keep writing about my experiences.

 

For more information on Tomatis Listening Therapy:

www.theswaincenter.com www.thelisteningcenter.net or contact us

FINAL Note:

As part of my research, I reviewed the following web sites in the categories of Listening therapy, Tomatis, AIT – etc.  I would recommend to review these as well. They all provide different opinions on music therapy.

After reviewing all the sites and speaking to Jeff’s doctor, we choose Tomatis with the Swain Center.

Your decision is up to you!

DISCLAIMER: THIS IS NOT MEDICAL ADVICE! JUST ONE PARENT'S INPUT ON Tomatis LISTENING THERAPY. CHECK WITH YOUR OWN DOCTOR FOR DETAILS ABOUT WHAT PROTOCOLS TO USE FOR YOUR CHILD.

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