Autism is a developmental disorder that occurs in the first three years of human life. Autism occurs in approximately 15% of every 10,000 children born. It is four times more common in boys than girls. Autism has been seen in every racial, ethnic or social group around the world. Autism can also be evaluated as sensory integration disorder and communication disorder. The Tomatis Method can have positive and lasting effects in these two areas.

Tomatis Sound Therapy and Autism

Tomatis Sound Therapy is not a treatment for autism. However, listening therapies can greatly improve the lives of many autistic people by relieving symptoms. It has been found that Tomatis Sound Therapy has improved (improved) to varying degrees in people diagnosed with autism and is often used in combination with other therapies.

Tomatis Sound Therapy has been able to reduce the symptoms of autism to a certain extent by stimulating the auditory system and, through it, the brain. Every autistic person is different and may respond differently to the program. In many cases, improvements were seen in the following areas:

Decreased hypersensitivity to sound
They will be able to deal with sound better. They may begin to connect with what is going on around them because they feel less threatened by the sounds that surround them.

As a result, they may have fewer tantrums and show fewer repetitive behaviors. They may also start paying more attention.

Reduced touch sensitivity
The less tactile defensive they become, the more likely they are to make contact, and they may begin to interact with others. This makes them more social.

Advanced language skills
Autistic children who do not speak are more likely to develop receptive language. They may try to make more sounds by experimenting with their voices, and they may say incomprehensible words. Expressive language may develop in children with more advanced language skills. They can make longer sentences and find more appropriate words to describe something. They can use personal pronouns such as “I” and “You” more accurately instead of talking about themselves in the third person. Having a greater command of the language will also increase their desire to communicate.

Increased cravings for food. Being less picky about their food

Better Self Image
As soon as they start to connect with their voice, their self-image will start to develop as well.

Advanced social skills
They may begin to seek relationships and react better to others. They may begin to follow instructions more.

Less aggressive behavior
They may become less aggressive towards others and themselves. They may begin to hurt themselves less and show less repetitive behavior.

More eye contact
They may begin to look you in the eye and understand what you are saying more easily.

When autistic people are hypersensitive to sounds, we first aim to regulate it.

Once that barrier is removed, we can help them start listening better. It also paves the way for improving sensory integration. These two elements, improved listening skills and better sensory integration, are the building blocks for developing communication skills.

Reducing Hypersensitivity to Sounds
People with autism often experience excruciating pain because of their various sensitivities. Many are hypersensitive to sound. The severity of their pain can be unbearable. Some symptoms of this hypersensitivity are:

Covering their ears with their hands to protect themselves from the sounds.

Having big tantrums with the tension (irritability) of having to deal with constant voices

Repeating the same words, phrases, or phrases, possibly to soothe or balance themselves, in the face of a torrent of intense and confusing sounds

So, why are they hypersensitive to sound? The reason lies in the way we listen. We all listen with both our ears and our bodies. Our skin and bones are excellent conductors of sound. Our whole body responds to sound. However, unlike many people, many autistic children (and adults) listen predominantly with their bodies. Sounds picked up by the body go straight to the brain without being filtered. This means that irrelevant background sounds are not filtered out. Thus, many autistic people are constantly attacked by sounds. When people listen predominantly with their ears, sounds are filtered to reduce their intensity. They can also filter out all background sounds. That way, they can focus on what really matters. Many autistic people don’t have the ability to filter out background noise and focus on what’s really important.

So when we work with autistic people who are hypersensitive to sound, our first goal is to desensitize the bone conduction response and make their ears the main entrance for sounds. This way, sounds can be processed correctly. We do this by making them listen to personalized and tuned music with frequencies tailored to the client through a special vibrator headphone.

Since all of our sensations are interrelated, reducing hypersensitivity to sounds often leads to reduced sensitivity to touch and other sensitivities, such as avoidance of food of different textures.

Improve Communication

Tomatis discovered that we can only make a sound if we hear it well.

Therefore, listening is the foundation of speaking. Therefore, it is the paradoxical ear that controls speech and controls all the parameters of speech such as density, flow, articulation and so on. That’s why listening to yourself is essential to communicating with others.

When we speak, we unconsciously observe our speech by listening to ourselves. This means that we must have the ability to focus on external sounds (my mother talking to me) and/or internal sounds (my own voices when I speak).

As we saw above, many autistic children ignore outsiders to protect themselves from the stimulus bombardment that threatens them. Probably for the same reasons

They ignore those who come. They seem detached both from the world around them and from themselves. Therefore, communication is very difficult.

The Tomatis Sound Therapy Program seeks to help children with autism develop self-listening to promote communication. In this context, vocal exercises are key to achieving this goal. Ask the children to speak into the microphone. Through the feedback loop, children instantly perceive that their voice is coming back to their right ear; this is the ear that allows faster and more precise processing of the tongue. Sounds not only come back to the ears, but also to the bones, thanks to the vibrator placed on the skull.

Voice exercises are often difficult for autistic children, especially in the beginning. Often, they are afraid of their own voice and immediately shut up. They are “listening” to their own voice for the first time. So far, they probably haven’t associated themselves with their voices because it requires a sense of self and an understanding of one’s body, both of which are weak in most autistic children.

Bone vibration is the key to a better perception of the body, it is essential for the development of the self. We often observe autistic children trying to swallow the microphone during vocal exercises. The microphone provides an intense vibration that reflects on their entire body. It gives them the opportunity to “feel” their body. Some enjoy the experience immensely, but a normal adult cannot bear the intense bone vibration that occurs. This phenomenon in itself is very normal: a simple conversation creates vibrations throughout our body, but most of the time we are not aware of it, nor are we bothered by it. Voice exercises make it possible for them to “feel” their bodies and develop their ability to produce sounds, which can lead them to acquire a language.

By giving them the ability to produce sounds in a controlled way, we pave the way for them to develop a sense of self. As we know very well, “finding one’s own voice” is finding oneself. As a result, improvement is often seen in the following areas:

Extended articulation of words
Progressive (augmented) expressive language
More advanced receptive language
Sharper listening skills
Better volume control
An increased sense of self develops
A deeper awareness of the whole body
It is clear that reducing hypersensitivity and regulating sensory integration are key steps in helping the autistic child or adult reconnect with their family and environment by allowing them to step outside their protective shell. While the Tomatis Sound Therapy Program focuses primarily on listening and auditory sound exercises, other senses change simultaneously.

Clinical Psychologist
Beyhan Perim Secmen