Saturday, July 17, 2010

Therapeutic Listening

Has anyone ever heard of this? At the recommendation of Zoya's Occupational Therapist, we started this program with Zoya about a week ago. Therapeutic Listening (TL) helps with Sensory Integration issues, which many kids with down syndrome have, and also many kids from orphanages have. Put down syndrome and orphanage together and you get a lot of sensory integration issues (at least Zoya does). TL is an auditory intervention that uses "organized sound patterns inherent in music to impact all levels of the nervous system." Zoya listens to specially designed CDs that almost sound like a broken or scratched record. The CDs vary in musical style and some have common kid songs that we all know, but they sound different than what we are used to hearing. The music is electronically altered with the goal of setting up one's body for sustained attention and active listening. Zoya has to listen to these CDs twice a day for 30 minutes at a time. She has to listen to the CDs through special headphones that make her look like a DJ from a club in NYC! Interestingly enough, she doesn't try much to take them off, and has gotten used to keeping them on for this therapy. Most children who do TL use this protocol for 6 months on average. This program is used in conjunction with other sensory activities, known as the sensory diet.
Some things that TL is supposed to help with, and things that Zoya is currently having difficulty with are:

*Background Noise Filtering (Zoya gets very distracted with the slightest background noises)
*Tolerance of low frequency sounds (Zoya has difficulty and anxiety when hearing the vacuum cleaner, blender, hair dryer, and other things that make that same sound frequency. This has improved some since being home).
*Sound Sensitivity (we found out from Zoya's hearing screening that she has superhero hearing and hears sounds that I could not hear and that most of us do not hear).
*Attention and Focus (since we met Zoya this has been an area of difficulty. We have seen HUGE HUGE gains since coming home, but it continues to be an area of difficulty. We want to help Zoya in this area as much as possible so her ability to learn isn't impacted by her attention difficulties).
*Vestibular Processing (Zoya does not like to swing, to be on a carousel, or be tipped upside down where her feet are higher than her head. She has difficulties with certain movements but mostly those that include movement without holding onto mommy or daddy, and movement where she is tipped backward even with mommy and daddy).
*Inability to Sit Still (Zoya does not like to be in one place for long, and when she is sitting still and even sleeping, parts of her body are almost always moving! We have seen lots of progress here as well and hope the TL will continue to help in this area).

Some other areas TL is said to help, but that do not currently affect Zoya, are:
*Touch Processing
*Tactile Hypersensitivity
*Eye Contact
*Feeding Issues/Oral Texture/temperature difficulties

So far we have noticed some changes with Zoya, mostly when she is actually listening to the CDs. She will get into a trance-like state at times and appear very very relaxed while listening to the CDs (which by the way make my skin crawl at times from all the different pitches and tones!). She is able to focus more on tasks while she is listening to the CDs. She is also doing better in very overstimulating places (like church, and the zoo). That might be due to the TL or maybe just do to having more opportunities to get familiar with these places. After about a week of listening to the CDs, we started to see even more changes with Zoya. The biggest change we saw was in her vestibular processing. She all of a sudden has almost no opposition to being tipped backward or upside down! She was even signing "more" when Shawn was tipping her backwards off the couch! We couldn't believe it! She is also doing much better with low frequency sounds such as the hair dryer and vacuum. While I was drying my hair the other day, instead of whining and making ugly faces and getting anxious and reaching out for me to pick her up, Zoya actually laid down on the floor and rested her head there for a few minutes and then just crawled around the floor happily for the remainder of the time! We will continue to do the TL and hope to see even more changes in Zoya! Here are a couple cute pics of her with the very large headphone on! We always do the TL in her highchair usually during breakfast and dinner. We have to have her stationary when she listens because her head is so small and the headphones are so big that if she moves they fall off.

And the calm daze I was talking about....

You can see Zoya doing her TL here. She is also using some signs in the video. Her version of "fishies" cracks me up. She wiggles her little thumb, too cute! You can also see her get very calm and in her daze that I talked about, and then start dancing and laughing. You can also see when she touches her headphones and I say, "if you touch you will sit" and she points with her hand. This cracks me up because when we were starting time out with her I would say "no touch or you sit" and then I'd point at her time out chair. Well now whereever we are, if she is doing something she isn't supposed to be, whether or not I warn her, she will do this pointing thing like, "I know, if I do this I have to sit, right?" I also think it's funny at one point she is signing "fish" and I don't acknowledge it so she looks at her hand signing fishies like, "is this thing broken?"


  1. Thanks for the post. I really enjoyed reading about this, very informational....

    Now off to go and research it since I've never heard of it before.

  2. Oh and she is deliciously cute!!!

  3. I have some sensory problems and the OT I saw for therapy wanted me to do TL. I didn't like it (pretty much hated it).Similarly to you, all the different pitches/tones/rhythms drove me batty. I've got some processing issues and don't do so well with lots of different noises at the same time - so the music made me anxious. However, that doesn't mean it's no good! Just my personal experience. I think if I'd been a better TL student, it would've ultimately been good for me. Doing therapy as an adult is different, it's easier to ignore what you've been told to do! (bad decision)

    Jaimie (RR)

  4. When Kevin was kindergarten age, we tried Auditory Integration Training, and it sounds a lot like what you are trying for Zoya. We found it made a big difference in Kevin, he didn't play with his ears, or try to plug them like he did before. I hope it helps Zoya, too.

    Sue M.

  5. Oh my goodness! She's so freaking clever, what a little smarty pants! She's really gorgeous :)

  6. She is just too cute! She is really changing her looks. I love all your posts.

    Be blessed

  7. Sarah,

    I just read the article in the post journal which in turn took me to your blog. I am so happy for you...I feel like it was just yesterday you were babysitting my girls and now you have been blessed with one of your own. I always new you would be a wonderful mother as you were wonderful with my girls. I wish you all the best and enjoy every second as it goes by so fast. Julia is now 18, Jill just turned 16 and little Jenna is 13. Zoya is beautiful!!!!

    Lisa Einink

  8. So cute! Loved the video! She has learned so much!! It's so amazing!

  9. i have heard of it but never tried it or even know if its available at my city

  10. Someone just sent me this link, as we are currently doing a bit of research into Listening Therapy for my daughter's sensory issues. She doesn't have the same issues as Zoya had, but definitely has an opposition to sharp, shrill voices (like actors projecting at a play, or someone laughing suddenly, loudly), and has issues transitioning into any kind of chaotic or new environment. I'd love to hear how things are for Zoya now, so long after you began the therapy. Please e-mail me!