Category Archives: FAQs

All about the Tomatis Method (week 2)

When Kids Don’t Listen (A Very Simple Guide to APD)

Browsing through the kidshealth.org website, I noticed an article about APD (Auditory Processing Disorder), also known as Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD).  It defines the condition as:

“a complex problem affecting about 5% of school-aged children.  These kids can’t process the information they hear in the same way as others because their ears and brain don’t fully coordinate.  Something adversely affects the way the brain recognizes and interprets sounds, most notably the sounds composing speech.

Kids with APD often do not recognize subtle differences between sounds in words, even when the sounds are loud and clear enough to be heard. These kinds of problems usually occur in background noise, which is a natural listening environment. So kids with APD have the basic difficulty of understanding any speech signal presented under less than optimal conditions.”

Many times, APD is not really treated as a serious problem because–let’s get real–children do have a tendency to misunderstand parents and teachers when they don’t feel like listening to things they don’t want to hear.  Case in point, my conversation with my son Basti, regarding the need to brush his teeth every night.

ME:  “Did you brush your teeth?”

BASTI (not looking away from the TV):  “Hmmm?”

ME:  “Did you brush your teeth?  If you haven’t, I will turn off that TV until you do.”

BASTI:  “Mom, I don’t understand what you are saying to me.”

Pilosopong Basti aside, consider the five problem areas (as described in the same website) that affect a child with APD:

1.  Auditory Figure-Ground Problems: when a child can’t pay attention if there’s noise in the background.

Gino belongs to a class of 23 students.   While their teacher is giving them instructions on how to write an expository essay,  Gino’s seatmate is whispering to him about the new iPad game he got last night.  Two boys behind him are chatting about football, and so are the two classmates in front of him.  The air-conditioner in the classroom is making loud, clunky sounds; and younger kids outside are shouting while playing frisbee.  Gino is so overwhelmed by the myriad of noises that he is unable to focus on what his teacher is saying, and just covers his ears.

2.  Auditory Memory Problems: when a child has difficulty remembering information such as directions, lists, or study materials.  

Lauren’s mother is telling her to pack for her class camping trip the next day.   “Lauren, go to my room and get the duffel bag in the closet.  You will find the sleeping bag under your brother’s bed.  Go pack your clothes after.  Don’t forget to bring sun screen, insect repellant, a jacket, cap, flashlight, and your allergy medicines.  Did you get all that?”  Lauren nods and goes to her mother’s room.  She searches around but can’t find what she is looking for.  After ten minutes, she shouts, “Mom where is the sleeping bag?  What do I have to bring again?”

3.  Auditory Discrimination Problems:  when a child has difficulty hearing the difference between words that are similar.

Jaime noticed that she got one mistake in her spelling test.  She approaches her teacher and says, “I spelled this word correctly.”  The teacher shakes her head, “I’m sorry, Jaime, it is wrong.  Color is spelled C-O-L-O-R.”  Jaime looks dismayed, “But I heard you say the word ‘collar.'”  The teacher explains, “I used the word in a sentence–The newborn puppy was color brown.”  Jaime looks confused, “I thought you said–The newborn puppy wore a brown collar.”

4.  Auditory Attention Problems:  when a child can’t stay focused on listening long enough to complete a task or requirement.

Rally’s teacher is explaining how to make a camera obscura.  “First, tape up the box to ensure that no light can penetrate it.  Then cut away part of one end of the box and fix a screen of tracing paper across it. At the opposite end cut a 25mm hole in the box, cover this with kitchen foil, tape down the edges and bore a neat round hole through the foil that is no larger than the lead of a pencil.”  While his teacher is talking, Rally’s attention is caught by the sound of a car passing by.  When he realizes that his teacher has finished talking, Rally looks at his cardboard box and then asks his friend beside him, “What are we suppose to do?”

5.  Auditory Cohesion Problems:  when higher-level listening tasks are difficult, such as drawing inferences from conversations.  

Mateo was being interviewed by a therapist about his family.  He was asked, “Mateo, do you like going to school?”  Mateo answers (with a smile), “Yes, I like school.”  The therapist asks further, “What do you do when you’re in school?”  Mateo says, “I play with my friends and I learn new things.”  The therapist continues, “What is it you most like about school?”  Mateo answers (with a little frown), “I like to go to school.”  The therapist rephrases her question, “What is your most favorite thing about school?”  Mateo says, “My favorite thing is school.”

Tomatis PhilippinesAPD can affect a child’s performance and behavior in school and at home if left unidentified and unmanaged.  And if so, it may lead to more serious concerns such as speech and language delays and academic problems.

Tomatis and APD

The Tomatis Method can help children with APD by retraining the auditory system and decreasing hearing distortion. This allows them to listen and focus on the important sounds and efficiently process the information in the brain, greatly improving a child’s receptive listening skills.

Dr. Deborah Swain, former Chief of Speech Pathology at the University of California, Davis Medical Center and current director of the Swain Center, explains in her study:

The Tomatis Method is based on the evidence that the neurophysiological construction of the auditory system has important connections with entire body as well as the cortex and sub-cortical structures, which are stimulated when stable and normal auditory perception occurs.

The Tomatis Method serves as an auditory stimulation/re-education intervention to stimulate listening and processing as opposed to hearing.  It reproduces the developmental steps of listening, language acquisition and use, and learning.

As a matter of fact, her study entitled  “The Effects of Auditory Stimulation on Auditory Processing Disorder,” describes the positive effect of the Tomatis Method as a form of intervention for APD.

The study’s purpose is to determine the efficacy of the Tomatis Method of auditory stimulation as a therapeutic intervention for Auditory Processing Disorders (APD).  Forty-one subjects (18 females, 23 males; 4.3 to 19.8 years old) were evaluated for APD.  Performance on standardized tests indicated weaknesses with auditory processing skills.  Each subject participated in a 90-hour Tomatis Method protocol and, once completed, each subject was re-evaluated to measure improvement.  All subjects demonstrated improvement with skills of immediate auditory memory, auditory sequencing, interpretation of directions, auditory discrimination, and auditory cohesion.  Pre- and post-treatment comparison indicated statistically significant differences in the aforementioned skills.  These findings suggest that the Tomatis Method of auditory stimulation can be effective as an intervention strategy for APD.

If you would like to find out more about how the Tomatis Method can address Auditory Processing Disorder, please email us: info@tomatis.com.ph.

Tomatis® & Autism

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke describes Autism spectrum disorder (or ASD) as:

“a range of complex neurodevelopment disorders, characterized by social impairments, communication difficulties, and restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior.  Autistic disorder, sometimes called autism or classical ASD, is the most severe form of ASD, while other conditions along the spectrum include a milder form known as Asperger syndrome, and childhood disintegrative disorder and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (usually referred to as PDD-NOS).  Although ASD varies significantly in character and severity, it occurs in all ethnic and socioeconomic groups and affects every age group.  Experts estimate that 1 out of 88 children age 8 will have an ASD (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, March 30, 2012).  Males are four times more likely to have an ASD than females.”

kids-with-autismAccording to the National Institutes of Health, diagnosing ASD requires an evaluation by a multidisciplinary team, including a psychologist, neurologist, psychiatrist, speech therapist, and other professionals, such as a Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrician.  At present, “scientists aren’t certain about what causes ASD, but it’s likely that both genetics and environment play a role.”  Also, “there is no cure for ASDs.  Therapies and behavioral interventions are designed to remedy specific symptoms and can bring about substantial improvement.

The Tomatis® Method does not lay claim to curing Autism.  However, prime aspects of the listening therapy do help in alleviating many of its symptoms.  Jacqueline Parks, a Yahoo! contributor, explains in her article:

“Most autistic children are hypersensitive to sound. They have trouble shutting anything out, so they just shut down. For this reason, their Tomatis® Listening Therapy usually starts with sound desensitization. Tomatis® listening programs teach the child to use his ears, as opposed to bone conduction, for primary sound recognition and to shut out irrelevant noises. This enables the autistic child to learn through sound. Because speech is primarily learned through sound perception and imitation, this opens a path to speech development. As the autistic child realizes that he can produce sounds, control them, and communicate with them, he develops a better sense of self and is better able to interact with his environment.

“As autistic children complete the various stages of their Tomatis® programs, there will be improvement in areas not directly related to listening or communication. As children become less sensitive to sound, they also often become less sensitive to tactile stimulation and to food textures. They are more likely to make eye contact and to cuddle. Your picky eater may suddenly be more willing to eat different foods. Probably the best benefit of Tomatis® Listening Therapy is an improved relationship with your autistic child. Results vary, but all children show some improvement. (Source: tomatis.com)”

Why the Right Ear IS the Right Ear

I’m not saying that the Left Ear has no use at all, but it seems that (according to Dr. Tomatis and other researchers) by using your Right Ear, one can better process what they hear and have a more appropriate emotional response.

How is this so?  The right side of our body is connected to the left side of our brain (and vice-versa).  Therefore, when we listen for sounds using our Right Ear, the information swiftly and efficiently travels to the left hemisphere which is responsible for processing our emotions, speech, and language comprehension.  The left side of the brain is also called the auditory processing center and it helps us analyze all the things we hear or listen to.  In his biography, The Conscious Ear, Dr. Tomatis writes:

“We have two ears, but each fulfils a different function.  The chief function of the right ear is to be a ‘director’….In the feedback loop of self-listening, which connects the hearing apparatus to the larynx, the right ear will be closer to the organs of speech than the left….The right ear takes charge of operations because it receives information more rapidly.”

What happens then when one is Left Ear Dominant?  When sound enters through the left ear, the information goes to the right side of the brain.  (The right hemisphere takes visual information and organizes them.)  From the right side of the brain, the sound then has to traverse through the corpus collosum (which connects the two brain hemispheres) and then go to the left side, which is the language center.  The delay of the sound reaching the left brain usually causes auditory confusion (“Huh?”), stuttering (“W- W- W- Where are you going?”), or dyslexia (mistaking the word “color” for “collar”).

Dr. Tomatis discovered the significance of the Right Ear while doing his work with opera singers.  He said,

“This is an absolute: all great singers and musicians are ‘right-eared….the right ear ‘measures’ the highest frequencies, while the left ear performs the job for the lower-pitched frequencies….As a result the left-eared person finds himself distanced by his ear.  Not only is he a long way from the person to whom he is talking to, but he is also a long way from his own body, since he cannot attune himself to the higher frequencies of his own voice.”

Since the connection is less reliable in interpreting language, Dr. Tomatis believed that Left Ear Dominant people had a tendency to miss many of the higher frequencies which causes information to get “lost in translation” and brings in errors and delays.

Being a healer, the good doctor found a way to help the opera singers become Right Ear Dominant.  He created a training apparatus to be used for audio-vocal education and re-education.  This is the same machine we use today (albeit in a more modern embodiment) called the Electronic Ear (see a photo of it here).  Later on, Dr. Tomatis used his machine to work on people who stuttered or were dyslexic, and to his amazement, they got better.  He concluded that by training them to become Right Ear Dominant–by increasing the input of sound using the Electronic Ear (among other things)–his clients not only started to sing better, they also improved their speech and language.  French actor, Gerard Depardieu, was one of his more enthusiastic and successful clients.

If you wish to find out your Ear Dominance and how we can help you, visit us at any of our Tomatis centers today.

Pourquoi Mozart?

In 1991, Alfred Tomatis wrote a book that answered the question “Why Mozart?.”  The good doctor explained (and extolled) in his treatise the reasons why Mozart’s music is superior in its healing effects and why it is used for the Tomatis Method.  (I don’t expect you to read the book, unless you are very fluent in archaic French.)  Through the help of Pierre Sollier–Tomatis devotee and author–and other Tomatis books, we get to learn the rationale for using Mozart’s music.

It should be noted, however, that the content of Pourquoi Mozart? (1991) is not to be confused with the more popular The Mozart Effect (1997), written by author and music researcher Don Campbell.  Campbell espoused the idea that by listening to Mozart, one can become smarter.  For Alfred Tomatis, Mozart’s music was more than a palliative influence on the brain.  Rather, it encompassed the entire person, body and soul.

In my humble capacity as a Tomatis practitioner, I have listed down the reasons why Alfred Tomatis used Mozart’s music:

1.  Mozart began composing as a child, therefore, his music is very reminiscent of an innocent and happy childhood.  It is vibrant, clear and transparent, and deftly expresses joy and sadness in a very heartfelt style.

“Perhaps it is Wolfgang Amadeus’ precocity that provides the answer. He began to compose excellent works at the age of four and a half. He was born into an extremely favourable environment, where music reigned as absolute monarch. Even before his birth, Mozart was saturated with music. I have no doubt that such a situation prepared his nervous system to listen and to live only in music….It is not inappropriate to say that musical expression was the true mother tongue which enabled Mozart to communicate with the entire universe.”  (The Conscious Ear, Tomatis, 1991)

2.  Mozart’s music is pure, balanced and was inspired by the Divine; therefore it is perfect in all its musical elements.  Compared to other composers, music was “imbedded” in Mozart’s soul.

“Why Mozart (and why not Beethoven, Ravel, Bartok, or Louis Armstrong)?

He is for Tomatis an initiate (from the Latin initium=beginning), someone who has access to a level not commonly reached by others, as a result of a revelation….Mozart was an Initiate because of his capacity to live at that level, especially when he was composing.  In fact, he was known to write entire pieces of music as if they were dictated to him by some divine inspiration.” (Listening for Wellness, Sollier, 2005)

3.  Mozart’s music has the ideal characteristics of rhythm and high frequencies that are most effective in the Tomatis Method.  These aspects of his music are crucial in the execution of the listening therapy.

“The diffusion of Mozart’s work through the Electronic Ear provides a desirable architecture for the neural foundations of listening (and more generally of perception), and so of the individual’s relationship with the surrounding world.” (The Conscious Ear, Tomatis, 1991)

“The music of Mozart, which is rich in higher harmonics and has little low frequency content, needs minimum energy to be clearly audible.”  (When Listening Comes Alive, Madaule, 1994)

4.  It is only the music of Mozart that comes up with the best results in the therapy.  It is a most effective tool in the administration of the program.

“Among the hundreds of pieces of music tested over 25 years, we selected and retained works by Mozart…owing to the good results they have enabled us to obtain.”  (The Conscious Ear, Tomatis, 1991)

“I also believe that Mozart himself was the first to benefit from the healing effects of his music. ‘Mozart composed music of radiant vivacity, sparkle, and wit at times when he was crushed by neglect, debt, and the awful discouragement of living his whole life insufficiently compensated and recognised’….”  (When Listening Comes Alive, Madaule, 1994)

“When I write my books, when I fling my theories onto paper, or meditate pen in hand, I always fill my study with Mozart….I need this acoustic recharge….To some, it may seem to be a whim, but I recommend surrounding oneself with music.  It energises you…” (The Conscious Ear, Tomatis, 1991)

5.  The music of Mozart has both a calming and energizing effect necessary for people who have sensory issues that cause them to be either over- or under-stimulated.  It helps attune the body into a state of composure and self-assurance.

“The consistent results obtained during the sound stimulation program with the use of Mozart provide another example of its universal quality.  His music is the only one we know that creates a perfect balance between the charging effect and a sense of calmness and well-being.  It relaxes the overly active and the anxious and energizes the tired and the depressed.”  (When Listening Comes Alive, Madaule, 1994)

“Both relaxing and energising, the music of Mozart can be used either to calm down the children when they are restless, ‘hyper’ or fidgety, or to give them a boost when they are tired or distractible.”  (When Listening Comes Alive, Madaule, 1994)

Before I say ta ta, I’d like to leave you with some Mozart music (and a short bio).  I hope it does make your day a little brighter and better.

Please do share how the music of Mozart has touched, inspired, or just made you feel good.

The Man Behind the Name

Dr. Alfred A. Tomatis was the French doctor who developed the Tomatis Method.

If you search about him through the internet, you will be bombarded with loads of uncertain facts about this man (his actual birthdate, the controversy behind his medical practice, his methods of research).  However, one main thing that is definitely true is that he was a Renaissance Man, whose unique ideas and work were greatly notable way before his time.  Dr. Tomatis was, after all, one of the first doctors who established the fact that fetuses in the womb can already hear their mother’s voice while in gestation, and that this phenomenon has a great effect on the development of the child.

If you wish to learn more about this fascinating man, I would recommend that you read his autobiography, The Conscious Ear: My Life of Transformation Through Listening.  The book begins dramatically enough with Dr. Tomatis describing his traumatic birth, and how his 16-year old mother wantonly disregarded him.

“It is useless to bother with him.  He’s dead.”

These were the first words my ears heard when I left my mother’s womb, though I certainly didn’t understand them.

However, if you continue on, you will discover how he survived, with the help of his father, Umberto, into a successful man in his field.  It is especially delightful to read how young Dr. Alfred helped his father’s colleagues in the opera world regain their singing voices.  Other captivating anecdotes in the book include:  how he came to Paris all alone as an 11-year old boy; how he began his research into Occupational Deafness through the unwitting help of the Italian tenor Enrico Caruso; and how he lost nearly a hundred pounds through a self-imposed starvation regimen.

There is no doubt about it, the man is truly eccentric, acerbic, and demanding.  But the work Dr. Tomatis has left behind was born from a genuine soul who did all he could to help other people.  And today, through the administration of the Tomatis Method, the doctor’s legacy lives on.