Some people with Autism have problems with sound. They may find loud noises unbearable, or have taught themselves to ignore sound altogether.
Our listening styles affect how we learn and behave. A music based therapy program is showing great promise for children and adults on the Autism Spectrum.
It's called "Therapeutic Listening" and Sacred Heart Hospital Occupational Therapist Brant Thorn is using it with great success with Ashiya Hinson.
The six-year-old little girl with Autism also has many seizures a day. Between both conditions, Ashyia struggled with attention span, speaking and self-control.
Grandmother Sandra Roof says the simplest of outings were impossible just a year ago. "We couldn't take Sia out to eat, to church or a ball game. She would be rolling around on the floor, not even paying attention. Now, she's trying to get in there. You'll find when we get here, she's pushing buttons, trying to get in," Roof shared.
Ashyia is eager to work with Thorn. Twice a week, he puts special headphones on her that play electronically altered music, designed to stimulate the brain. "But it's really not a musical program. It's a program that deals in frequency. Separates the high frequencies from the low frequencies," he outlined.
Thorn said the different frequencies help Ashyia deal with environmental stimuli. The tones also produce Serotonin, which promotes calming. "When we first started seeing Ashyia, she had about an eight second attention to task, and terrible times with transitions," Thorn explained.
At times, Ashyia was so overstimulated she would have almost continual tantrums, was not able to sit still, or care for herself. She still has some frustrating moments, but they aren't dominating her days like before.
Thorn said Ashyia's eye contact has improved tremendously. They are getting a lot of work done, mostly focusing on fine motor skills so Ashyia will be able to eventually help dress herself. "She's very organized when she's wearing the music. You're gonna see her use two hands well together, she's much more aware of what's going on around her," he said.
Thorn said the Therapeutic Listening is helping Ashyia learn how to problem solve, improve attention span and have better social interactions. The effects of the specialized therapy are cumulative. "I'm really excited about taking this and putting this program in her classroom," Thorn expanded.
Roof said the therapy soothes Ashyia, and has enabled her to hit a major milestone. "She's talking to herself now. She wasn't verbal before. And to hear her say 'Mommy'," Roof shared with a tearful smile.
Mother and Grandmother alternate therapy visits, because their home is more than an hour away. They come twice a week, and would make the trek more if Thorn recommended they do so, because they've seen such growth and progress. "You can take Sia to eat now, and she focuses. She likes coloring," Roof said delightedly.
Thorn says Therapeutic Listening is being heavily researched to see if the approach could help people with Alzheimer's, or children and adults with A.D.D. or A.D.H.D.