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What is Sound Therapy for Autism Spectrum Disorder?

October 5, 2023

Sound therapy for autism spectrum disorders uses certain sounds that are thought to help with some behavioural disorders that can be associated with autism. It is thought that children with autism can benefit the most, because when there are early interventions the brain is more adapted to learn and respond.

What is Sound Therapy for Autism Spectrum Disorder?

This article is going to outline:

  • What sound therapy is
  • The three types of sound therapy
  • How sound therapy works
  • Ways to practice a sound therapy program at home and beyond

What is sound therapy?

Sound therapy was created to help improve abnormal sound sensitivity for those diagnosed with different developmental disorders, including autism spectrum disorders. This treatment is thought to address some sensitivities individuals experience based on sensory processing.

Those diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) can display different sensory processing difficulties in relation to auditory, tactile, taste, visual, smells, how the body moves or vestibular, and proprioception which is where the body is in space. Some responses can either be seeking behavior, where they want more of the input, or avoidant, where they don’t want the interaction and can possibly respond in a negative way.

Three types of sound therapy

There are three main types of sound therapy programs, each of these sound therapies bearing similarities are:

  1. Auditory Integration Therapy
  2. Tomatis Method
  3. Samonas Sound Therapy

Auditory integration therapy, also known as Berard’s method, was developed in 1982 in France by Guy Berard. He hypothesized that there is an array of behavioral disorders and learning differences that can potentially be affected by those with different sound sensitivities, or lack of sensitivities to certain sound frequencies.

Berard felt that auditory integration training (AIT) would

“bring about a ‘re‐education’ of the hearing process.”

Auditory integration training is included among sound therapies and involves a listening program which includes 10 hours of electronically music modified for headphones; they also dampen high frequency sounds that could have an adverse reaction by the individual with auditory sensitivities . This occurs over 10 days in two 30 minute sessions, improving abnormal sound sensitivity could be a result of these sessions.

The Tomatis sound therapy was created by Dr. Alfred Tomatis and creates auditory input by taking an electronically altered human voice, along with music through a device called the “Electronic Ear”. This listening program is specified per individual.

Unlike other sound therapies, the Tomatis sound therapy, or Tomatis method, is individualized. It varies depending on different breaks that are scheduled between the different specified treatment blocks.

The Samonas sound therapy was created by Steinbach and included some of the work done by Dr. Alred Tomatis which seems to bare some core and associated features to the Tomatis method. It uses a headset with filtered music, sounds of nature, and human voices that are recorded on CDs.

The Samonas method can also be done at the autistic child’s home, depending on the therapist and goals set for the therapy.


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How sound therapy for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) works

There are different thought processes when it comes to the different types of sound therapy programs. It doesn’t help that the trials that were run in the article, Auditory integration training and other sound therapies for autism spectrum disorders (ASD), conclude that a sound therapy program does not seem to be as effective as other therapies for autism.

Although the results seem to be inconclusive, there are more trials and tests being done that could prove to be more efficient or maybe even measure different outcomes.

All three forms of AIT use a type of sensory integration that focuses more on auditory processing through a headset that emits different sounds and frequencies through music for different lengths of time. This auditory integration therapy improves auditory defects while improving concentration.

Although each method is different, whether it is how the therapist interacts within the program, to the intensity and time of each session, each specified to the individual receiving the therapy, each method has claimed the same results and benefits. These methods have been tested across the spectrum of developmental disorders including autism spectrum disorders (ASD), learning differences, as well as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and others and had similar positive outcomes.

Can sound therapy be done at home?

There are therapies that can be done at home. In some cases, like the Samonas, sound therapies involving listening to filtered sounds that include music, nature sounds, and human voices can be done at the house of the individual with the discretion of their therapist.

This could be done with the other sound therapies that are available. As with the Samonas method, it would depend on the therapist and overall goals that are to be met by the therapy and what materials and equipment is necessary to carry a session out.

Is it music to your ears?

Overall, if there are ever any questions or concerns that you have in regards to your child, whether they have been diagnosed with ASD or any of the other development disorders, it is always a good idea to talk to your child’s doctor. They have the resources and knowledge necessary to move forward to the therapy that could possibly benefit your child.

If their doctor is unable to help, they have the ability to refer your child to other professionals that may have an idea of what could be beneficial. In some cases, a doctor would need to refer the child to any of the sound therapies above that would benefit them individually.

The great thing about these therapies is that they are individualized to the person receiving them. Keeping what could benefit your child at the forefront of their therapy goals that you and your child feel would best benefit them and help produce a higher quality of life due to the skills they learn and can use moving forward in life.

References

Cochrane Developmental, Psychosocial and Learning Problems Group, Haven, A., Silove, N., Sinha, Y., & Williams, K. (2011). Auditory integration training and other sound therapies for autism spectrum disorders (ASD). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7173755/

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