Our senses are continually gathering information and organizing it to generate movement, determine behavior, and create learning. Our inner ear consists of two complex systems: the auditory system, responsible for discriminating and interpreting sounds via the cochlea, and the vestibular system, responsible for equilibrium via the vestibule and semicircular canals. The vestibular portion of the inner ear processes low frequency vibrations of movement, while the auditory portion processes the higher frequency vibrations perceived as sound. The vestibular system plays a major role in sensory integration. The vestibular system allows us to keep our eyes focused on a target while the head moves. It also provides us with postural control, balance and spatial orientation. When the two systems are functioning properly, it encourages us to move and explore our environment.
For children with disabilities, this process may be interrupted or altered. They have difficulty moving through space, sitting upright, with hand-eye coordination, focusing on a page or blackboard, orienting self to sound, and may not respond to people when called, or may be hypersensitive to sounds.
Our Therapeutic Listening® Program is a sensory integrative treatment that impacts all levels of the nervous system through the auditory system. It does this by using the organized sound patterns and frequencies inherent in music, providing direct input to both the vestibular and the auditory portions of inner ear. The auditory input is coupled with activities that involve core activation, movement, and respiration, targeting the ability to center and move the body in space and time while increasing the brain’s ability to organize and attend to sensory stimuli in the environment.
While doing activities/ movements that activate the core and require movement, the child will be listening to music modules from Vital Links, a research-based therapeutic listening program. These sounds are delivered through personal music devices and headsets. The music provides specific sensory information which targets attention and body movement. The Occupational Therapist determines the type of music, modulation, listening time and activity program according to each child’s specific needs. As the child progresses, the Occupational Therapist assesses the child at each session and makes the necessary modifications according to the child’s response to treatment.
Typically, the child will use the device once to twice a day for 30 minutes per session. Optimally, the child should use Therapeutic Listening® 5 days per week, however, children have had improvement with only twice a week intervention. Parents often choose to buy the program to be implemented in the home. Studies have shown that children who participated in a Therapeutic Listening program demonstrated remarkable improvement in sensory processing.
Therapeutic Listening® is great for children with sensory modulation difficulties. It is highly effective at improving the brain’s overall ability to regulate arousal and mood. Social interaction is targeted, and an increase in social exchange and reciprocity is acquired (an awareness of social exchanges will cause positive environmental responses to be more noticed and met with the like). The child will demonstrate increased awareness of interactions, noises, and visual stimulants in their environment, improved behavior, and communication. The child will also enjoy movement and his or her postural control and balance will improve. There will also be improved bilateral coordination, fine motor control, oral motor/articulation, and visual motor integration.