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The Listening Program: A Trusted Approach for Autism Treatment
Music does profound things to your brain, in a good way! The brain is musical; neuroscience has established through functional brain imaging that virtually our whole brain is involved when we listen to music.
Our vision at Advanced Brain Technologies is to transform the lives of children and adults on the autism spectrum, and those who care for them, with music that can reboot the brain to be able to function better and in turn better support the body and its systems.
To fulfill our vision, we start with the scientific evidence that the brain has a natural ability to physically change itself and strengthen its neural networks in response to a person’s experiences. This is called neuroplasticity, and it occurs not just in childhood but throughout an individual’s lifetime.
Neuroscience-Based Music Listening Therapy
Parents face a daunting array of treatment options to help their children attain their fullest potential. Each child is unique. As such, their autism intervention should be holistic and adapted to meet their individual needs and goals.
The Listening Program is a neuroscience-based music listening therapy. It uses a developmental model to promote lasting change and it’s backed by peer-reviewed research demonstrating exciting outcomes for children and adults with autism. Typical improvements include language development, sensory processing skills, fine and gross motor coordination, memory and thinking skills, emotional wellness and more.
We believe in maintaining the beauty of the art of music while giving it a specific use: to improve your emotional, mental, and physical performance. The foundation of The Listening Program is its scientifically designed music performed by Advanced Brain Technologies’ own award-winning Arcangelos Chamber Ensemble.
Your brain is better on music. The beautiful therapeutic music contains more depth, detail, and dimension and provides more emotional impact than music created using other recording methods for enhanced emotional and physiological resilience to respond to life’s challenges.
TLP is more than music. ABT’s high standards for evidence-based music and innovative approach toward neuroacoustic modifications require headphone delivery. With the outer ear acting as a funnel for sound conducted through air conduction, the headphones provide an intimate connection with that funnel, thereby conducting the sound more directly and completely from the onset.
This direct connection is important because it optimizes the delivery and reception of the frequencies, volume dynamics and left/right characteristics of the sound so that the stimulation is as close as possible to a true representation of what was intended when the music was created.
ABT created a multi-sensory bone conduction audio system called Waves™, which provides a multi-sensory experience of sound vibration stimulation through both air and bone conduction, the two ways in which we tune into sound.
When you or your loved one listens to The Listening Program through the Waves multi-sensory audio system, a transducer or vibrator on the headband provides enhanced bone conducted sound stimulation while the earpieces of the headphone enhance air conducted sound. The net effect is an optimally balanced listening experience.
The Listening Program has numerous neuroacoustic modifications that use the natural elements of sound delivered through headphones. The purpose is to enhance our perception of musical complexity, tone density, spatial training, frequency focus and volume dynamics. The listener will move gradually through a sequence of training intensity to provide a balance of stimulation and grounding support.
Develop a Healthy Relationship with Sound
One of the most reported challenges for people with autism spectrum disorders is hypersensitivity to sound.1
Auditory hypersensitivity involves a brain network called the non-classical auditory system and is an emotional response to sound rather than an auditory response. Children described as being hypersensitive to sound have adverse emotional reactions to sound and situations in which the sounds are present.
A toilet flushing, vacuum, or a loud restaurant are examples of commonly reported sounds or situations in which a child may have an autonomic nervous system reaction, which typically involves a fight or flight response. For instance, in anticipation of the frightening sound, a child may lose control of their behavior and try to run away (flight). They might put up a strong, negative, emotional fight to avoid the sound (fight). Or they may retreat inward through behaviors such as covering their ears or rocking as ways to calm themselves.
These negative responses to sounds can be difficult to manage due to the combination of specific sound triggers and the undesirable stress-related responses to those sounds. Over time, the brain can become accustomed to these undesirable stress-related responses (almost like a negative patterned “brain habit”) that can eventually be instigated by visual reminders of those offensive sounds.
When this pattern develops, it is important to think about a form of therapy that not only assists the brain with revisiting the way it processes an “offensive” sound, but also with resetting its response to that sound. This is one of the reasons so many professionals and families use and trust The Listening Program.
TLP training not only addresses hypersensitivity, or difficulty processing specific sound frequencies, but it also resets the stress-response system. When the child then finds him- or herself in a real-world situation and hears sounds that may have been frightening or annoying in the past, the training allows the child to process the sounds in a more neutral manner.
It is possible to desensitize these emotional reactions and reprogram the emotional memory system so that children can develop a healthy and positive relationship with sound.
A series called TLP Spectrum was developed for The Listening Program. It involves a gentle method of listening therapy to calm and desensitize the limbic system and reprogram the emotional memory system to make sounds something desirable to listen to, rather than avoid.
Throughout training, children are often reported to be more attentive to sounds, better able to detect sounds they hear, and more communicative when communication is verbal, likely because they are more receptive to listening. In addition, fine and gross motor skills for balance and coordination improve due to the low-frequency emphasis to engage the body and brain.
Spectrum provides a gentle and effective solution to systematically shift the brain from the sympathetic fight or flight response to the parasympathetic rest and recovery response.
Optimize Healing by Reducing Stress
ABT’s Clinical Director, Allen T. Lewis, MD expressed that a major issue in brain-impairment, and a substantial roadblock to healing, is stress-overload. Stress impairs healing, immune function, behavior, detoxification, digestion, sensory processing, socialization, language perception, sleep, balance, and overall development.
Stress is pro-inflammatory and chronic stress results in a persistent fight or flight response that shuts down effective immune function.
To heal, the body needs a “safe signal”. This is where TLP comes in as a very important part of his treatment model. He likes TLP because it is a gentle approach to healing the brain, and it is easy to do, even in your own home and on your own schedule. Patients using TLP for just 15 or 30 minutes a day experience faster restoration of more optimal emotional, mental, and physical function.
Develop Harmonious Social Engagement and Communication Skills
The Listening Program targets harmonious social engagement. Many individuals with ASD may have difficulty managing moods and strong emotions or improving emotional intelligence and interpersonal interactions.
Under stressful and fearful conditions, one may notice how a person’s voice “cracks,” raises in pitch, or becomes weak. Whether communication challenges are verbal or nonverbal, whether they involve reading and language or listening and responding appropriately to social cues, it’s important to regulate the emotional system to encourage homeostasis and promote social language.
Social engagement can be negatively impacted due to poor auditory processing. Auditory processing is your ability to understand and make sense of what you hear. Difficulty processing auditory information can hinder learning, thinking, communication and relationships.
In a recent peer-reviewed research article, “Changes in Auditory Processing After Completing The Listening Program Training “published in the International Journal of Listening, the authors evaluated the results of 456 clients ranging in age from 5-50 using the SCAN test of auditory processing both before and after completing The Listening Program.
This study supports the application of The Listening Program method for children and adults with auditory processing deficits and deepens the body of research that validates TLP as an evidence-based practice. Many children and adults on the spectrum experience auditory processing issues.
While the purpose of this study was to evaluate the measurable changes in auditory processing abilities for people who undergo TLP training, the changes that took place in participants’ lives after completing the treatment are of equal, or perhaps even greater, importance.
Subject 29 is now a happy bubbly child who willingly engages in conversation, has established friendships, loves going to her friend’s birthday parties, and her family can now enjoy trips to the supermarket, to their local restaurant or even enjoy holidays together. None of these factors were observed prior to the child completing TLP training.
Overall, the individuals in this study were observed to be calmer, more settled, having reductions in anxiety, greater confidence, and self-esteem, improved social interactions, and better outcomes in reading and spelling abilities as well as improvements in speech and articulation.
We can help individuals with autism improve how they process what they hear which can positively influence their functioning in school, at work, in social situations, and in their lives, in general. This is one of the reasons using The Listening Program is so worthwhile.
One of the most gentle and effective ways to engage the auditory system and improve communication skills is with TLP Achieve, which is one of the core programs available from The Listening Program. Achieve is the go-to listening therapy for Speech-Language Pathologists to promote the attainment of speech and developmental milestones because the brain processes the elements of music and language similarly.
Achieve targets the mid-range frequencies (300hz-5000hz), which is the primary speech range, allowing the individual to experience the transformative effect on communication and social connection.
Strengthening Skills for a Lifetime Love of Learning
The Listening Program can help individuals on the autism spectrum improve how they process what they hear which can positively influence their functioning in school, at work, in social situations, and in their lives, in general.
Professionals and families consistently see improvements acquisition of new developmental, language, social, emotional, and academic skills. TLP is really a go-to therapy to help individuals on the autism spectrum progress and heal faster.
This article is also in the Autism Hope Alliance Resource Booklet, “What the Experts Know”, pages 84-92. To receive the booklet, visit https://autismhopealliance.org/resource-booklet-2/
1. Lillian Stiegler, Rebecca Davis, “Understanding sound sensitivity in individuals with autism spectrum disorders”. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, June 2010, vol. 25 no. 2 67-752. Jay Lucker, Alex Doman, “Auditory hypersensitivity and autism spectrum disorders: An emotional response” Autism Science Digest, vol.4, 2012. http://adbn.co/luckerdomanasd04
Tags Advanced Brain Technologies, Autism, Autism Hope Alliance, Autism Music Therapy, communication, Emotional Regulation, listening therapy, Sensory Processing, The Listening Program
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