Music therapy could be considered a type of auditory
integration training. It aims to address the sensory
problems such as hearing distortions, hyper-acute hearing, and
sensory processing anomalies, which are said to cause discomfort
and confusion in persons suffering from learning disabilities, including
Autism Spectrum Disorders. These hypersensitivities are believed
to interfere with a child’s attention, comprehension, and ability
The training typically involves the child attending
two 30 minute sessions per day for ten days. The children listens
to a musical program through headphones. The program is modified
for each child with certain frequencies of sound filtered using
an electronic device called an Audio-Kinetron.
Music therapy is the use of music to achieve therapeutic
goals. Some goals may be, but are not limited to, motor skills,
social/interpersonal development, cognitive development, self-awareness,
and spiritual enhancement. Music is a very large part of auditory
integration training. Speech and music are very similar in the way
they are produced. Take pitch and duration of sounds for example.
When two people talk, there is a difference between the pitch of
the voices, and how long different people hold out different sounds.
This is also evident when people sing. By stating this fact, it
is evident that "music can effectively supplement an auditory
training program by motivating the use of residual hearing".
When setting up a session of music therapy there
are goals that have to be kept in mind. Some specific goals or objectives
for music therapy and auditory training are sound detection, sound
discrimination, sound identification, and comprehension of sound.
The sessions often start off with music and sounds
that are familiar to the client, so they are easily recognizable.
Then, gradually throughout the sessions the music and sounds become
more technical and harder to discriminate. In a typical AIT session,
the sounds that are used are generally recorded sounds that clients
listen to through headphones.
However when music therapy is added to the session
a variety of instruments can be used. For example, any percussive
instrument like the metallophone, xylophone, piano, or any drum
can be used. These can be used very effectively because not only
can the client see when the instrument is being played, they can
also feel the vibrations coming from the instruments to feel when
there is sound being made and when there is not. For example, an
activity that is very useful and enjoyable is "balloons".
In this activity the client gets a balloon that is full of air.
The therapist then plays a drum, piano, or any other percussive
instrument and the client can feel the vibrations of that instrument
in the balloon when that instrument is being played. The vibrations
stop when the instrument stops. Every sound has a vibration or a
certain frequency and by holding a balloon these frequencies are
larger-than-life and can be easily felt by the client.
It is important to use a multi-sensory approach,
especially when dealing with children on the autism spectrum.
The more senses that are incorporated into a session, the better
the result will be. Musical instruments such as the ones stated
above, are pitched in various frequencies and they can be played
very loudly, which allows the client to recognize these sounds sooner
than they would recognize the human voice (Davis 1999, 190). To
simply recognize when sound exists is very important in the early
stages of sound awareness. If it were not for the music, AIT would
not be nearly as effective.
Speech is greatly affected when someone has a
deficiency in his or her auditory system. We learn how to speak
from what we hear as a young child. By using music therapy for auditory
training, it helps to develop speech as well. It encourages free
vocalization and vocal imitation. By singing songs that use words
that begin with the same letter, or focus on one certain sound,
the client will learn how to say that sound.
When working on speech, using music therapy for
auditory training, there are also certain goals and objectives to
work on; for example, an increased use of voice for free vocalization
and an increased awareness of speech patterns and subsequent production
of more natural speech rhythms, pitch and inflection. Practioners
advise it is very important to start this whole process as soon
as possible; as the earlier the intervention, the better the outcome
What does the research say?
Music Therapy for Auditory Training is claimed
to be an effective treatment for any client that has trouble with
verbalization, any level of hearing impairment, Autism,
ADD and ADHD.
However, conventional audiology and medical organisations consider
it to be an experimental procedure. Parents should be provided with
accurate information about the research evidence for these approaches
and the costs involved in pursuing these programs (Sinha et al.,
Research Summary: Several small studies of AIT
have obtained mixed results, with some studies showing benefits
and others failing to do so (Sinha, Silove, Wheeler, & Williams,
2005). Additional studies are needed to evaluate AIT more conclusively.
Professionals should present AIT as untested and
encourage families who are considering this intervention to evaluate
Click here for the full
range of Asperger's and Autism fact sheets at www.autism-help.org
to read an interview with Lorna Jean King on Sensory Integration
This autism fact sheet is licensed under the GNU
Free Documentation. It is derivative of an Autism and Asperger's
syndrome-related articles at http://en.wikipedia.org