Treating Sensory Processing Issues with Bill Mueller – Podcast 7
We discuss treating Sensory Processing Issues using Sound Therapy. Bill Mueller has pioneered an incredible set of technology that can be used to treat Sensory Issues.
Mark: My name is Mark Blakey and I’m here today with Bill Mueller and he is an expert of Sensory Processing Disorder. He has a very interesting career history, he’s been a developer for NASA and he’s also a Grammy nominated audio-engineer and more recently he is known for Sensory Processing Therapies that he developed himself and Bill can probably tell you a little bit more about those in a minute. First I’m very curious, how did you get into the world of working with kids with sensory processing disorder?
Bill: First, Mark thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today, it’s a real honour and I would just like to say that this is a lifelong pursuit of mine to help children with brain injury and with sensory processing disorders. When I was twelve years old my older sister who was 8 years older than I had her best friend had a child with Down Syndrome and that profoundly affected me back then and I was greatly saddened by this child and so, all through my life I have paid attention to people who have neurological issues and I’ve always wondered if there is something that could be done more, that could be done to help them. I am as you said, Grammy nominated audio engineer. Back in the 1970s I studied psycho acoustics, I recorded many artists, major jazz artists and rock artists and and other artists as well as the president of the United States, George Bush and Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and back in the 70s, I was interested in psycho acoustics and that is the process by which people perceive sound and how we identify sounds and how we process sounds in our brain. So in the middle 1970s I began to teach audio engineering and I taught college level audio engineering courses for about 30 years and in the middle 1980s my wife and I, before we got married we decided we wanted to home school our children and she decided to take courses at an institute in Philadelphia that was teaching parents of well children how to teach children from birth. They also were involved in a very big way with parents of brain injured children and the director of this institute was Glen Dillman. He recently died, he died this year and they learned from brain injured children how to enhance the neurological capabilities of well children and they learned from well children what the benchmarks should be and how they should help brain injured develop. I was exposed to many children, eventually in ‘85 I’ve joined the board of directors and spent 18 years studying brain injured children very, very intensively on a full time basis and learned a lot about brain injury and of sensory processing disorder.
I’m also, professionally a designer of software, I designed the first game that was ever developed under Space act Agreement with NASA and I also designed the systems engineering software for the constellation program. So I have essentially 3 different backgrounds, I have my audio engineering background, I have my study of brain injured children and I have my software development background and that all came together to develop the first disk space listening therapy program in 1995. I created something called electronic auditory stimulation effect CDs. I have learned that the institutes, I had met a young man named David Bugosky and he had a diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy and he was desperately auditory hypersensitive and his family was terrified to make a noise in their house. They literally tiptoed around the house and sometimes they would walk with pillows on their feet literally and if David heard a noise, something happened outside he would meltdown and eventually they were living in a hostage situation and then when they had come to the institute, the institute should be best known for their work with sensory processing disorder actually because within just the matter of few weeks using wood blocks and air horns and highly intense transient sounds. I watched carefully, I was there, I was with David every day, I was watching the process that the therapist went through to help him habituate to noise. Within just a few weeks, they had David listening and hugging, making eye contact with his mother when this young man was 12 or 13 years old at that time and his legs were twisted around behind him and he was maybe 18 pounds and yet his mother was ecstatic, over the moon happy because their family was no longer terrorized by his hypersensitivity. So that was fascinating to me having studied psycho-acoustics for 15 years up to that point and I became intensely aware of that. We don’t all perceive sound in the same way and if we don’t know how to perceive sound, in the same way, we can’t perceive light and touch and heat and cold and the taste, the smell and know this began a journey for me to try to understand sensory processing, how it works and how sensory processing disorders can affect literally the entire population.
We’d like to speak of the spectrum that children with Autism are on because the fact is we are all on a spectrum of neurological organization. Some of these are better than others, some of these are not as well as others, some of us are severely hurt, some of us are in coma, some of us on the other hand with superb neurological organization and those are the lucky ones, those are the ones who have the right conditions to help their brains develop in the right way. That initial meeting with David Bugosky and his family led me to many years of study and about 10 years later, having observed other programs similar to what the institutes were doing called AIT 00:08:27, I created the first disk space program called the electronic auditory stimulation effect or EASe CDs and that was in the early 1990s, I created that first CD and it began to be utilized by the therapist and eventually, it has come to be used by ten thousand therapists around the world. It’s being used by a group called Vital LInks in a therapeutic listening program and we have sold close to 100,000 of those CDs around the world. Not wanting to stay in one place, during the period of time when I was developing software for NASA in 2007 era, I had a period of time where my developers, my team was head of the program a little bit and so I had some months to come up with another idea and so mothers have asked me over the years,
“What can my child do when he’s listening to his music? Can he read a book?” I would say yes, the great Idea kept himself busy, that’s fine.
Can he play a board game? Yes, of course, he could play the board game.
Could he play a video game on the TV? At that point, it became a little complicated because there’s audio with the video game and it would be difficult for the child to play the game as long as he couldn’t hear the music or the audio from the game so that’s a compromise. We don’t want children listening to television, we don’t want to go watching TV and having sounds in the background conflicting with the EASE of music while they’re listening to it. So it occurred to me that I could build a video game that I had a team capable of doing it or I could build a simple video game that children could play while they’re listening to the EASE music. What I started to think about was what would be the appropriate game for children to play. I realized that not only could I build the game that was appropriate for little ones to play but I could actually build a therapeutic game by using the same approach to visual disorientation and balance that we used with auditory stimulation. Now, I haven’t actually gone over what EASe is, would you like me to do?
Mark: Yeah that is one of my questions actually for our listeners. What and why is it effective?
Bill: I’m ahead with myself, let me go back just a little bit. Our auditory perception is tied directly to our vestibular perception because when our organism was a fish many millions ago living in the sea when our ancestors were fish living in the sea. They needed a system of self-protection so that they could orient themselves in murky water so that they could sense vibrations around them so that they could elicit an instantaneous fight or flight response and escape from a predator. So basically we had fish with rows of hair cells that went down the sides of their bodies and when those hair cells were stimulated by vibrations in the water, it would trigger a fight or flight response in the fish. Eventually, that fight or flight response became modulated by the fishes ability to habituate normal motion in the water and so it became as much a way of sensing the space around them and sensing vibrations and orienting themselves in the water as it was a raw fight or flight escape response. When those ancient fish moved out onto land, the sensing cells and the parts of the brain and the nerve pathways that were connected to those hair cells that allow them to orient themselves in water, those cells needed to change now in order to orient themselves into an antigravity environment and our gravitational environment as well as atmospheric environment and the water environment. When we moved out we actually split, the system split from that single system for the fish into two systems and one of the systems was vestibular cochlea and associated areas of the brain that allow us to orient ourselves in space and to respond with antigravity activities. We developed bones that can hold us up, we developed a sense of balance and proprioception. We also simultaneously but along a slightly different path, we develop the more refined ability to sense very light vibrations in much lighter atmosphere air, so those two senses developed in parallel with each other sharing the vestibular cochlea as well as the nerve cells and some of the parts of the brain that processed that information, vestibular and auditory. Now, it’s important to remember that.
Mark: So, just to clarify. Vestibular refers to this reflex that comes from the hairs of the ability to sense the environment around. Is that what you mean by vestibular?
Bill: Yes, yeah, our balance. Vestibular ability to balance, it started out as the fishes ability to orient itself in the water but as we move on to land, we needed to be able to stand up and move and as we did, as our ancestor did. We move and stand up the vestibular systems of the brain and in the inner ear in the auditory cochlea, the vestibular cochlea. Those developed along those two lines, auditory and vestibular to become better at each job and they specialize, they still share the auditory and vestibular cochlea and so they affect each other. Our perception of sound actually affects our ability to orient ourselves in space and its actually part of this triad, a visual-vestibular auditory triad and with our bodily functions that we can feel causing us to be able to sense proprioception. Those things all work together to orient ourselves in space so if we cover our ears we do not balance as well if we cover our eyes we do not balance as well and if we become distorted in our vestibular orientation obviously we don’t balance as well. But vestibular orientation is not just a function of the vestibular cortex, it is actually a function of all three of those items and very important for parents of children on the spectrum is this going all the way back to the original fight or flight response. Auditory perception has a great deal to do with our ability to respond to our social environment, to our physical environment. It has a great deal to do with our emotional response, that fight or flight response is key and core to our relationship to society, to other people, to our family and to the way that we respond to emotional stress and so we have distortions in our auditory perception. It can affect our balance, it can affect our auditory perception but it also affects our ability to reason and concentrate. It affects our ability to have an appropriate emotional response as well. Anything else there Mark?
Mark: How does that fit in with the concept you just told about the different systems?
Bill: With a typical guy or a girl that’s on our spectrum, we would see as typically normal development until maybe 18 months or two years and then we start seeing startle reflexes, inappropriate response to sound, maybe inappropriate response to light and touch and those are overwhelming inhibitions, those are inhibiting the neurological growth of the child at the time when those start. So there are key stages of development that essentially postponed if the child is eventually able to be helped, but sometimes those are just denied. Those development stages are just denied to the child because, at the time of hypersensitivity, the child becomes overwhelmed with sensory information and is unable to naturally and subconsciously habituate to those sounds. So you have a child who is being destroyed by senses, his emotional well being, his intellectual well being is being broken and destroyed by being overwhelmed constantly by light and sound and taste and touch and smell. Many of your mothers and fathers are gonna recognize these circumstances. So the time that this is going on, the child is unable to take in the information that they need in order to complete the neurological development of their brain and so the brain goes into a 2-year stage or 3-year stage when this all started to happen and the child is in duress. The child has to have normal sensory processing in order to have normal neurological development and without that, then we have stages of development that don’t happen so for instance in the child who’s non-verbal, the child has to be able to process audio information in order to be able to create audio information. So the sound has to come in first, the sound of voices and language has to be processed in the brain first before that child can then create those same sounds on his own and develop the motor skills, fine motor skills and be able to develop the ability to speak and so if you have a distortion or you have a blockage of normal habituation and normal sensory processing at that early age, that’s the point in which you can’t grow beyond.
Mark: With habituation, you are talking about the process of getting used to certain sounds and how the brain absorbs certain sounds?
Bill: Habituation is a subconscious process of the brain and essentially what happens, everyone does it. We pay no attention to it, in fact, that is the process. That is the purpose of habituation. Let’s say you go home to mom for Thanksgiving or for a holiday and for whatever holidays you’re celebrating. You opened the front door and there’s food cooking in the kitchen and the smell of the food is just overwhelming and your mouth starts watering and immediately you’re hungry. Except your house is full of your family other friends so you go in and you’ve met people and hug people and you start talking and you get a drink and pretty soon you don’t notice how strong the cooking smells were when you first walked into the house and the reason is that your brain has sensed those sense of smell, it smelled the cooking food and initially that was an important piece of information for being in the home. However, after a while, your brain doesn’t need to constantly attend to those cooking smells and starts to attend to the other things that you purposely, and consciously you are trying to accomplish and so you habituate almost immediately. Within the first few minutes, you start to habituate, within about half an hour you habituated to the smells of the cooking food and everything is fine until the potatoes boil over on the stove and that starts to burn on the stove and that acrid smell fills the kitchen and everybody turns to the stove and now everyone is attending because now that smell is important, something is burning and it’s important to be able to attend to it and you now know that you need to put out the fire. Your brain subconsciously is constantly sampling all of this information, your brain samples everything that’s in the air around you all the time, it samples everything that you can see and hear and feel and taste and touch but it only attends to the things that are important to you and it habituates to the things that are not important and when something comes up that is important, even in the background your brain subconsciously will attend to that new stimulus and bring your conscious along with it, the subconscious brings the conscious along with it and says this is something more important, let’s attend to this, let’s figure out what’s happening here. So that is habituation, we all do it, except the child who has this neurological disorientation or lack of orientation that causes them to be unable to habituate that’s sensory processing disorder. When the child is unable to appropriately process that sensory information, they have only a couple of choices; their brain only has a couple of choices. One of the choices is to just be constantly in a state of arousal and in a state of fear and frustration and be constantly overwhelmed and that’s where we see a lot of young children. And then eventually the conscious brain figures out, not the subconscious because this is a subconscious problem. The brain determines that it needs to block out the sounds and so we have the development of something called the sensory defensiveness and these children use various techniques. Sometimes they will slap their face, sometimes they will squeal and make their own sounds, sometimes they will rock in a chair. Many times, these perseverant behaviors are substitutes for subconscious habituation and it’s a child’s way of being able to create an environment for themselves that they can predict. It isn’t completely random and that allows them to cope with and at least survive in a sensory world. Now, that’s what we find in an older child, we find that in 5 or 6 or 10 or 12 year old child who becomes really good at defending against sensory information, and I will get a call from mother and mother will say “I think my child needs, you know your program but I’m not sure and I say, “Well, is your child auditory hypersensitive?” and she said, “No, in fact, I think my child is deaf.” Then the next question is, “Has your child acquired language?” If a parent says “No, my child has not acquired language” Then I guess the next question would be “Was your child always this way?” Usually the answer is “No my child has not always been deaf, my child in fact now is a conundrum because he screams at some sounds and he’s afraid of one more and hears airplanes to fly over but when talking to him he doesn’t respond, he’s unresponsive” and so we have that conundrum that child who is at one time of the day appears deaf and another time of the day appears auditory hypersensitive. That is the child who is sensory defensive and that the older child and so for that child we need to create a program that can not only help the subconscious process of habituation but first we have to overcome the sensory defense mechanism in order to get to that process of habituation and I guess this is a good point now to figure out or to describe what electronic auditory stimulation is and how it works because it is actually pretty simple. Even though our auditory processing affects a wide range of neurological abilities and processes, it is a pretty straightforward process to affect auditory hypersensitivity or auditory processing and to help the child overcome sensory processing disorder. So if we were standing on the street, and a bus pulled up and the break squealed, the first time the breaks would squeal, all of us would cover our ears or we would cringe and move away from the bus. The second bus that came up and whose breaks squealed, those of us with a more natural subconscious habituation capability would cringe and look unhappily at the bus but we’re not gonna run away from the bus because we have the ability to cope with that. However, by the third and fourth bus, we’ve pretty much ignored the bus squealing. We know what it is, we know it’s not dangerous, we know it’s not irritant and we don’t have to attend to it at all. A child who is standing with us who has a sensory processing disorder, that child can’t habituate in a way that we do so every time the bus calls up it’s like the first the bus pulls up.
Mark: Can I ask? How do we get beyond this?
Bill: So here’s the thing, what I first observed with the institutes and what they did with David Bugosky, all those years ago was so amazing to me and so simple. First of all our brain organizes itself around the stimulus that we bring in, so when we see things, when we hear things our senses bring information to the brain and the brain processes that information and stores that information and in the process of using the information actually changes the structure of the brain so the brain grows by use. When I said, the brain grows by use just like a muscle grows by use but if the brain is not getting information to use, or if the brain is injured in getting arrogant information, then it can’t grow enough in a normal way. We have to overcome that, so it is an input to the brain that is necessary but if sound will cause the child to react in a hypersensitive way then how do we get sound into the brain without triggering that fight or flight response, and the key to that is been three elements: intensity, frequency, and durations. The intensity, in this case, means how intense is the stimulus, if the stimulus to the brain is not intense enough, it will not cause a neurological reaction within the brain so the stimulus has to be intense enough. However if the stimulus, in this case, lasts too long, it will trigger the fight or flight response so we have to shorten the duration of the stimulus, so we need a very intense, a very short duration and that will keep the stimulus from triggering a fight or flight response but allow us to get the maximum amount of auditory information into the brain in the most effective way possible to affect a change in the actual neurological function of the brain. Create new dendritic connections and be able to actually change the processing of the brain. So how often we do this? The frequency part of it has to do with how many times in a day can we deliver an intense short duration of stimulus to the brain, so we have the frequency, intensity, and duration. What EASe does and originally what he’s doing back in when I first created this phase listening therapy is to take an instrumental piece of music, no voice is on the music. This needs to be a universal music that doesn’t rely on whether a person understands English or understands French, it needs to be universal that’s why we use instrumental music and we essentially use a low pass filter and what a low pass filter means is a low-frequency pass through the filter and high frequencies don’t pass to the filter and what that does is when we put music through a low pass filter, it dulls the music down causes the music to sound muted may be somewhat like this [covers mouth and speaks] okay hear me? So, the sound is very soft. I say that again, the sound is very soft and easy on the ears, it is the kind of the background of the sound, we’ve caused it to be, because it’s soft it’s similar to background sound but then on top of that, we apply a short duration, random, high-intensity equalizer. Now an equalizer is the same in your car, you have an equalizer on your stereo and you can grab that little knob and you can turn the high frequencies up and make it really bright or you can turn the high frequencies down and make it very dark and you can do the same with the bass in some cars the same with the treble and some cars even have seven-band equalizers on them. Now, we use an equalizer that has an extreme amount of boost and it’s triggered by a random number generator and it allows us to provide for that listener a very soft mellow music bed and then to superimpose on top of that bursts, a very intense high-frequency sound derived from the music. So this is the noise that white noise that we hit apply, it is the actual music itself but it is changing with this dynamic very intense equalizer. Now, we’re teaching when the individual listens to an EASe CD, we’re teaching them the skill of habituation and the way that we teach that is to put the headphones on and we play this nice, pleasant tempo positive theme, to music to them and then we superimpose on that is very intense very destructing, very sharp equalizer that causes a distraction and if we were to allow it to lasts, let’s say five seconds, the child would rip the headphones off their head but because it only lasts a matter of milliseconds somewhere between 100 and 1200 milliseconds or so, it’s very intense causes a response in the brain to this intense auditory signal and it causes the brain to actually change and create new connections, new dendritic connections, and perception but it does not cause the fight or flight response and so essentially what we’re doing is we’re spoon-feeding small but very intense amounts of auditory stimulation underneath the door, underneath that door that’s called sensory defense mechanism. That door, that bars other cells of getting into the brain, we can actually sneak under the door with this very short duration but very high intense auditory stimulation and in doing so, were actually teaching the child to listen through this distractions to the music behind them and that is a skill and once that child starts to learn how to and by the way you can’t consciously do this, this is a subconscious skill. Once the child starts to listen through the intense destructions to the music and the background, that skill can then be taken out to a restaurant so the child was with her family in a restaurant and instead of attending to every single drop of a fork or a plate, that child is able to use that same habituation skill to listen to their mother’s speaking to them and listen to the conversation close by at their table instead of being driven constantly to destructions by other sounds of the room.
So that what eases, it’s really not that difficult or complex to understand, we are teaching the skill of habituation using music as a bed and this equalizer as a distraction but a very intense short term and high-intensity distraction.
Mark: My next question is really about how successful is this to kids that work with it and define what works for your kids with sensory processing disorders.
Bill: Obviously every child is different and so when the mother calls me and wants me to diagnose her child, he’ll do that, I can’t do that. We cannot guarantee that this is going to work with every child. However what we do know is when we have a child that exhibits these characteristics, we have a good shot with that child, we have a good chance that the child is gonna respond positively to this simple therapy because the child and the therapy because we’re addressing the direct problem that the child has. For example, one of the major treatments for Autism is a program that is intent on changing behaviors of the child, so if a child is behaving what someone would consider badly in a social environment. The therapy is designed for a child to understand what is better behavior and how to accomplish and how to behave. However, in my opinion trying to teach someone how to behave when they are under the duress is essentially asking a child to ignore their own body, to ignore the senses that they actually are experiencing and to behave in a way that it is inappropriate, so here we are saying behave well when you are under duress, that’s really difficult for anybody to do and it is confusing because we all live inside our sense, we don’t share our world, we live inside our senses and our world is what is fed to our brain through our senses and so we’re asking the child to behave appropriately by modifying their behavior without modifying their sensory information. However, if we modify their sensory information first so that they are able to cope with no eyes and them are able to cope with the world around them, then the source of their meltdown, and the source of their cold bad behavior, I don’t even ascribe to autistic children having bad behavior, they don’t. I think autistic children are behaving completely appropriate. They are behaving appropriately to their sensory information, but if we can change the information that their brain is getting or we can change, more importantly, the way their brain responds subconsciously to external stimulus then changing the behavior becomes almost automatic, then it’s not a struggle to change behavior because now that child is actually behaving appropriately to the world around them when you say, “Please calm down,” we’ll it makes sense for a child to be calm in a noisy environment if they are not under duress from that noisy environment.
Now, I stop before going into the EASE games and I think I can go back to that if we have time.
So when the mother would ask me, what kind of games could my child play? I realized that not only could I design a game, only I have a team of terrific programmers, it just completed designing a big game for NASA and I was also working for systems engineering and integration tools for the constellation program. So systems engineering and video games are very much the same so I decided that there was something more that can be done and besides just giving the child’s Soduko for instance while they listen to the EASe music, but the point of the game was that they would be listening to their ease music and they will have an activity. Now, as we just learned the way that we approached sensory processing in the auditory room is to create a very short duration, high intensity challenges to a child’s ability to a process audio, so those short-duration high-intensity equalization bursts are to audio what flashes of light, For example, might be to our visual route. I’m not gonna sit here and say I want to design a game that would flashlights on a child’s face but I needed to create a game that would put a child in a challenging visual environment. So the idea was to create a game with bright colors and high contrasts and an environment that is potentially even more bright and stimulating than their natural non-video environment would be. In addition to that, I had studied virtual vestibular environments at NASA as part of astronaut training, the NASA at Johnson’s base center where my program was centered from. We also work with people at Glenn and aims at Kennedy on the constellation program but at Johnson, they were doing virtual vestibular work with the astronauts in a couple of ways, one was a program in which you could explore the external skin of the international space station from thousands of yards back all the way up to the skin of the vehicle and actually be able to turn bolts on the skin of the vehicle. That was really important to me when I made the original game Space Station Sim for NASA because that itself was a virtual vestibular microgravity environment so I determined that I could create a virtual vestibular. There were also studies going on with Parkinsons patients using virtual vestibular environments to help Parkinson’s patients recover their ability to balance after they had lost the ability to balance. If a 70-year old Parkinsons patient could learn how to balance using a virtual vestibular environment, I thought a three or four or twelve, 16-year old young person who has vestibular challenges because of their auditory processing should be able to have a much more plastic brain and a much faster ability to develop those vestibular areas of their brain than a Parkinson’s patient, that was really important. So I decided to build a virtual vestibular environment to go along with the auditory environment with the EASe music and the way that played out was in motion games so I had the choice in building a first-person shooter where someone was with their gun-running across in open field and bouncing around or a flying or a driving game. Now, I was about to start designing first-person shooters for brain injured children or children with sensory processing disorder or children on the autism spectrum. That was a non-starter so I concentrated on vestibular games, so those became the basis for the Ease Games and so in a vestibular way, if we look it in visual-vestibular orientation in the same way that we will look at auditory orientation, we would see that we wanna constantly be challenging the player to be able to cope with the changing environment. So we wanted to have a buggy, let’s say that could bounce around on the environment and constantly challenge that players’ orientation in space and is a matter of fact, as soon as I made the first game within the first month of game testing, the very first game we sent it to therapists, when we had their children play the game and the therapist calls back and say “I don’t know, if I stand behind my client while they’re playing the game, I get dizzy.” Perfect, that’s exactly what we want! We want to challenge the vestibular orientation that means we want to make you dizzy when we can make him dizzy with the game. You are growing the ability to reorient yourself and keep yourselves from becoming dizzy so EASe Games are best played standing up. So we ended up with in addition to this vestibular disorientation and challenges to a person’s vestibular orientation, we actually added other things such as visual tracking. The games have targets in them or they have objects in them, your job in playing the game is to drive across the field and tag an object, your usually tagging a red target or a green target in the far-field and when you’re driving the buggy or flying the airplane, you have to keep your eye on that object behind the hill and you have to remember where that object was, drive up over top of the hill and try to find that object on the other side. So there are intellectual challenges here as well keeping that object present in your mind while you can’t see that object. There’s what we called sechadic challenges, there are challenges like smoke and bushes and other destructions that fly up and in your face while you’re driving the game to challenge your ability to keep your eyes on the target and to keep your mind on the target as well and so we have these. Essentially it is all about vestibular and visual orientation challenges and overcoming those and all of those elements which looks like a game to the children which is critical that it looks like a game that the children be engaged in their own therapeutic activities and have a buy-in that this is something for them and is fun. Those challenges tend to develop the same vestibular habituation with the same habituation for vestibular sense and a visual sense that auditory stimulation does for the auditory sense. So we integrate the 3 elements, we integrate the visual, the vestibular and the auditory processing all into one therapeutic environment that looks for the world as a video game to a child.
Mark: Wow, that’s quite a piece of work.
Bill: And it works, the games and the CDs were the studied at the Bernell University in 2011 and the study concluded that the results they got in the study should be able to be applied to the population in general. Within 30 days of starting to play, the video games that they could document improvements in auditory perception and occupational function and the ability to concentrate. There were a lot, they used a Canadian occupational performance, standard tests with the children as well as the responses of parents and correlated that all together using the data that we collect in the game because I’m a data guy, I like to collect as much information as possible and present it. Actually, both of the games and the EASe app were designed for researchers, they were designed to make researchers job as easy as possible by collecting as much performance data from the game and from the apps as possible so researchers could use sophisticated data processing tools in order to come up with conclusions about the progress of the child using either the games or the apps. So the games were studied this last year and 2013 in April at San Diego, that study was presented at the AOTA convention and so we’re excited and there’s another study done of the EASe apps. We haven’t talked about those, I don’t know if we forget those today but the EASE apps are the most, in my opinion, sophisticated software tool that has ever been developed for children with sensory processing disorder and there was a study that was done in 2012 and published in early 2013, that also concluded that the apps worked. Then there’s another series of studies ongoing right now, there was a study last summer to further analyze the data from one of the earlier studies and there’s a study ongoing right now with new groups of children and I guess if someone is interested in reading the first two studies, you could go to our website www.SensoryCD.com there’s a lot of information there and you can read the full studies if you’re interested in reading the full studies. So how’s that Mark?
Mark: That’s great. I think I’m gonna ask you one more question, that we always ask people that we interview. Do you have any advice specific to these children who have a sensory processing disorder? Are there any tips that you would give them to kind of take away?
Bill: Yes, I think I do. One of the things is to try to put yourself in your child’s place and I know that everyone tries to do that and there’s a natural function of a mother and a father but because a child’s sensory perception can be so different from ours, it is a really difficult thing to be able to believe that a sound that we consider to be just a normal environmental non-threatening event could be so terrifying to a child and if you have a child that is having what other people call tantrums and what better described as meltdowns, the vast majority of time we’re talking about a sensory meltdown. We’re talking about the child who just cannot cope anymore with the onslaught of sensory overload and it’s not a behavioral issue so the first thing is your child doesn’t have a behavioral issue, your child has a sensory problem and if you can overcome this problem then the behavior will improve. Now, the second thing which seems to be a little counterintuitive, there were a lot of children out there wearing shooters headphones to block out sound and that is potentially not helpful technique and the reason for this is that while we say short-term solution which is to take your child out a mall and he just cannot handle the sound of the mall and you put pair o headphones on them and now he can handle the sound of the mall, that’s terrific, that’s a short term solution to the problem but the better solution is to treat the sensory processing and then your child can not only cope with the sounds in the mall but they can also start to cumulate all the data that he needs to cumulate in order to grow his brain to the best ability that he can to get that brain on a fast track and growing and adapting to the world. So while headphones in blocking sounds again can be a good short term fix, you want to be careful that your child not get addicted to having headphones on that those headphones should be only a temporary fix and should be put away whenever possible and you know those are the two things. Recognize your child has a sensory problem and not a behavior problem and the other thing is to help fix the sensory problem instead of covering it up with headphones and I think if every parent who has a child who is melting down, he’s having trouble coping, he’s lost the ability to acquire language is struggling with balance, bruises themselves all the time, who has social interaction issues, who seems to have a short fuse. All of those circumstances are actually driven by their interaction with the world, the sensory processing and once you eliminate that, the behavior is a simple thing, the behavior is showing love and getting love.
Mark: Oh well, that’s a really good advice Bill. I think many people forget that the first phase that you’re saying about meltdown so they kind of the end result, but they don’t actually look and see what causes it.
Bill: If we have a message to the world of about children on the spectrum, to the world that don’t know the children on the spectrum, my message would be, “It’s not behavior, we should have a button that says it’s not bad behavior.”
Mark: Yeah it’s true. Well thanks for that and thank you very much for being with us today and I hope to see more of you in the future and we’ll talk about sensory issues and we’re going to add the show notes with links so you can find some of the papers I and Bill were talking about. Thanks again.
Bill: It’s my pleasure, thank you for the opportunity to be here, I can’t thank you enough for that.
Mark: Thank you, Bill, thank you.
To find out more about the Sensory CD’s Bill talks about, please visit http://www.SensoryCD.Com