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Learning Diff
Language and Learning Difficulties

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Poor Listeners are poor learners!

What are learning disabilities?

Learning disabilities do not refer to deficiencies in intelligence, but rather to difficulties in acquiring basic academic skills such as those needed for reading, writing, listening, speaking and mathematics . Learning disabilities also refer to difficulties with speech and language disorders, such as difficulty producing speech sounds and communicating verbally .

The consequences of learning disabilities are not restricted to academia. Demoralisation and deficits in self-esteem and social skills may be associated with learning disabilities, which can translate into long term consequences such as un-employment and poor social adjustment .

Types (from the DSM-IV)

Dyslexia refers to reading problems, e.g. difficulties joining or separating sounds of words which are necessary for fluent reading

Developmental writing disorder refer to difficulties in constructing sentences with the correct syntax and neat, legible handwriting

Developmental arithmetic disorder refer to problems with identifying and manipulating and reasoning with numbers

Nonverbal learning disabilities may involve poor motor coordination, spatial awareness, social and sensory dysfunctions. It also includes difficulties with attention or memory.

The Tomatis approach to learning disabilities

If a child has problems with verbal or written language it may be due to auditory processing difficulties. There may be a dysfunction in the way their brain is processing auditory information, which affects their language as it is through listening to speech sounds that we acquire our verbal skills.

The Tomatis approach identifies some auditory processing problems which may lead to learning difficulties:

  • Poor sound discrimination. Poor differentiation between sounds of different frequencies e.g. between s and z, p and b, etc leads to difficulties in reading and writing. This is because, according to Tomatis, these tasks require the association of a graphic sign and its corresponding sound in a single time frame

  • Non-right ear dominance. The right ear should be the leading ear as sounds captured by this ear are directly transmitted to the language centre in the left brain. On the other hand, sounds captured by the left ear must go through the right brain first, thus compromising the information due to the longer circuit.

  • Weak or tense inner-ear muscles. Healthy muscles in the hammer and stirrup lead to optimal (accurate) transmission of sounds.

  • Lack of “ear energy”. High pitched frequencies stimulate the brain and provide energy, as many children with learning problems do not perceive high frequency sounds well they do not get the ear energy needed to memorise and concentrate.

How the Tomatis auditory stimulation program can help:

Research has shown that music has a powerful effect on a child’s ability to learn. Studies conducted at the University of California have shown that listening to Mozart for ten minutes temporarily boosts your IQ by up to nine points. Research conducted at the Tomatis listening centre in Toronto on over 400 children and adolescents revealed that the Tomatis method produced an increase in reading and comprehension skills in over 85% of the participants. Furthermore, 86% of children developed a marked improvement in attention and concentration skills.

At the Hear and Now Centre in Sydney, we have used the Tomatis Method to treat 1000's of children who suffer from learning
difficulties. We are no strangers to the range of problems that can occur when a child is exercising his or her potential to learn. The kind of problems we see range from dyspraxia and dyslexia to speech delay and Attention Deficit Disorders. We also provide facilities for children who are more intellectually and physically unable.

What makes us unique is our approach to the ear and its fundamental role in language, physical, psychological and social development. Over the past 60 years Dr Alfred Tomatis developed a new approach to the treatment of learning problems. He was also the first to realise that the desire to listen is the "royal road" for language development and communication, and provides the basis for human growth.

By making a distinction between passive hearing and active listening Tomatis was able to trace back a much overlooked cause of learning difficulties, "poor listening makes poor learning". Just as one can look without seeing, one can also hear without listening.
Listening requires the desire to focus on sounds. Tomatis identifies this lack of desire as one of the major causes of learning difficulties. He demonstrated that dyslexia and other learning difficulties may be treated by restoration of the listening abilities.

Case study: Francis’ story

A child named Francis, aged 7, in year 1, was referred to the Australian Tomatis Method by his speech therapist for speech difficulties. During the Tomatis assessment Francis was very quiet. He spoke with a very soft voice which was so quiet that you had to prick your ears to hear him. When asked to repeat what he had said, he would refuse and completely shut off.
Francis was the first baby for Helen and John after going on fertility drugs. After ten days past the due date, the mother was induced and went through a long labor. In infancy, Francis did not latch onto the breast well and feeding was a struggle. For Francoise, that was already a sign of immaturity of the vestibular system, which is part of the inner ear. His milestones, however, were quite advanced. Even language came out quite quickly but the words were unclear. He used to jargon a lot and only his mother could understand him. At this time, he did not have proper articulation and people could not understand him. He started speech therapy at 2 ½ years old. Over the years, progress was minimal until fortunately his parents found the right speech therapist at the beginning of this year. Francis is generally a very serious boy and worries a lot. He tends to take things personally. He is very generous and has a big heart. He is very sporty and artistic.
His listening test during the first assessment showed imbalanced ears meaning that the two ears were not functioning together so the brain had difficulties to work properly. The test also showed some confusion and lack of clarity in his auditory processing compromising his speech. The listening test was a picture of how his ears and brain had difficulties in recognizing the sounds properly therefore he could not enunciate the words properly. Being extremely self-conscious and lacking of confidence Francis knew that he could not express himself properly and thus spoke very quietly hoping that his lack of clarity would go unnoticed, which of course was not the case.
We started the Tomatis program for 10 days 2 hours a day.
After one week, the mother reported that Francis was very happy. “He is skipping to the car after leaving the centre.” He is more relaxed. He had a test during the week which usually worries him a lot, but for this one, he said to his Mum “I will do my best”, “I can do it”. His sentences started to get longer, they began to explain things and to label everything compared to before when he referred to all objects as “the thing”.
He also started to read on his own which was quite unusual for him and he is bonding better with his Dad. At the end of the first program, Francis had become more talkative, speaking louder and much more confident. He has been able to make a presentation at school without stressing out about it and for the first time, he has started to stand up for himself when teased by his brother.

With the second 10 days program, Francis continued to improve greatly. His progresses were noted by his grand mother who was surprised by how clear Francis’ speech had become and the change in self confidence. Francis told his mother one day in regards to the Tomatis program, “this helps me to understand!”
His teacher also has noticed great changes in Francis’ speech and behaviour at school. His vocabulary has increased and is much more focused. He wants to read more and more. He even autocorrects himself now regarding some syntax errors. That is the sign that the loop between the ear, the brain and the mouth are working properly now. He is able to hear himself and corrects himself when what he says is incorrect. That is a great achievement and proof of the efficiency of the Tomatis Method.
At the end of the third 10 days program, Helen is thrilled with the progresses that her son has made in less than 4 months. At the last consultation she said that everyone is commenting about the changes that Francis is showing in maturity, confidence and how happy he is now. There is a big difference in his spelling and now he is even correcting his younger brother when he speaks incorrectly. That is a huge milestone in terms of the improvement and the maturity in the auditory circuits between the ear, the nervous system and the voice.
After 30 hours of Tomatis Method ear retraining program, Francis’ last listening test showed that the ears are quasi balanced and that the auditory processing is totally
Speech and auditory processing go hand in hand which follows the first principle of the Tomatis method:
“The voice can only reproduce what the ear hears or processes”. Retrain the ear and the auditory circuits to the brain and suddenly speech is clear and the child is able to express him/herself. Then the world is his/her.

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