Autism and Hearing – Another Survival Tool

dreamstime_l_32234382For some children the visual problems mentioned in my last article are less distressing than the auditory differences, some of which, like hyperacusis (hypersensitivity to some sounds), can cause great distress in many situations.

So this is for you if your child dreads going outside because the birds sing too loudly. If he tries to leave the room when you are vacuuming. If he hates mealtimes because of the jumble of noises – especially the sound of other people eating. If he blocks his ears even when you can’t hear anything. It will also be helpful if your child has problems in developing speech and language. Or doesn’t seem to understand when other people talk to him.

I’ve already given you some tips to help but if you want to eliminate hyperacusis, or help him hear correctly it is worth considering a more permanent solution.

As ever there are a wide range of potential solutions available but the one I favor is Auditory Integration Training (also commonly known as AIT). There are two reasons for this: firstly because it only takes 10 days to implement. The secondly is personal, for despite only having relatively mild auditory differences my hyperacusis was quite distressing at times and so, after reading about AIT I went on to train as a practitioner using it successfully both with children with autism – and on myself: something I found changed my life in many ways.

AIT was developed in the 1950’s by the late Dr Bérard who, after using it to treat his own impending deafness, went on to use it successfully with a vast number of patients whose common link was that they heard and processed sounds in an unusual way. So while some had hyperacusis, others had a variety of auditory differences and associated problems like speech and language disorders or learning difficulties.

Often referred to as an educational program this non-invasive ‘listening’ program simply consists of a wide variety of music, all of which has been specially modulated. That modulation is the key to ‘retraining’ the ear, normalizing the way in which they hear and also helping the brain to process auditory information correctly.

And here I have to admit to a personal interest. Despite only having relatively mild auditory differences my hyperacusis was quite distressing at times and so, after reading about AIT I went on to train as a practitioner using it successfully both with children with autism – and on myself.

So what effects could you expect. For me it was simply relief from hyperacusis – and a less stressful life but there are a whole range of beneficial effects, although those are obviously dependent on the person’s original difficulties. They may include any (or several) of the following:

• reduced hypersensitivity to sound
• greater tolerance of loud noises and sounds that previously hurt
• reduced stress – feeling calmer and less irritable
• increased confidence and self esteem
• be less hyperactive – less impulsive and distractible
• behave better
• have clearer speech/improved articulation
• show less obsessive/compulsive behaviors
• sleep better
• be able to listen, concentrate and learn better than before
• have better understanding and be more able to remember things
• have less need to withdraw from situations
• be more communicative
• be more sociable – even wanting to take part in social experiences

While the results above tend to be seen once the program is completed, for some people with autism some changes may be noticeable as soon as midway through the program. One example was the child who had always grabbed his mother’s hand for reassurance when large trucks went past. A child who, by the 7th day into the program, was now peacefully unaware that one had just roared passed him. Another was the man in his 20s who had autism. After being afraid of cats all his life on day 6 of the program he actually went up to one and tried to stroke it.

Even so you need to bear in mind that, for some people with autism, completion of the program provides a new beginning; especially if they have missed out on the usual developmental milestones and/or opportunities for learning in their early years.

If you would like a free checklist of the auditory differences please go to:

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About Stella Waterhouse

Stella Waterhouse first came across autism in the late 1960s when she met three very different children, all of whom shared the same diagnosis. She began researching autism in 1990 and is a published author of several books including A Positive Approach to Autism which attracted good reviews from such well known autism experts as Donna Williams and Paul Shattock OBE. She has also authored a series of concise but informative books for parents and teachers, and is currently completing her forthcoming series The Autism Code.

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