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Language and Learning Difficulties

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Speech Delay

It is often a sign of auditory processing difficulty as the voice can only reproduce what the ear hears or processes.

Speech delay is one of the symptoms described in autism, dyspraxia and other speech difficulties.

Case Study 1

Annabelle at age 3-and-a-half had significant delays in most of her development, but the biggest worry was her lack of speech development. She was seen by various doctors and paediatricians, had her ears tested for deafness, and had just about undergone every test imaginable.

Her speech development at 3 and a half was reported by the paediatricians as being no better than an 18-month-old infant. She was very placid and well behaved – possibly too good – and she was very dreamy and ‘spaced out’ most of the time. It was suggested that there was a strong possibility that she may have ADD of the non-hyperactive variety.

We took her for treatment at the Tomatis Centre and we couldn’t believe that results could be evident after the very first session! She continued to improve at an amazing rate, and started to speak clearly. She became outgoing, and at times even cheeky, which was something she never was before. Her face seemed to look more ‘alive’, as if she had been ‘switched on’ somehow, and she became more demonstrative.

Annabelle’s coordination had never been good and she was very much behind other children of her age with gross motor skills. She was attending preschool 2 days a week, and I was always either having to pick her up early or sign the accident book because she was constantly falling. This is no longer the case, and she can keep up very well at pre-school without having any more accidents than other children of her age.

She had also never been able to sing even the simplest of nursery rhymes before the treatment, and being as professional musician myself, I found it disheartening that we couldn’t sing together. Less than 2 weeks after she commenced the Tomatis Method, she ‘found’ her singing voice, and now sings all the time, even making up her own songs sometimes!

I have also had two of my older children undergo Tomatis Programs with wonderful results, and I would be more than happy to recommend the Tomatis Method to anyone, because my children are living testimony to its effectiveness. - Elisabeth, Annabel's mother.

Case Study 2: How Francis overcame his Speech Difficulties

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

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
operative and shows no distortion.

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.

This article is an extract of the 2007 Newsletter written by Francoise Nicoloff, Director of the Australian Tomatis Method in Sydney. Francoise is a Psychologist who has been working for the last 30 years around the world in the field of learning and communication difficulties and auditory processing.

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