Jun 02

You Say Tomato, I Say Tomatis…

Our occupational therapist (OT) recommended Therapeutic Listening Program or Tomatis Therapy for my seven-year old son who has Sensory Processing Disorder. The therapy sounds simple enough. My child is supposed to listen to each therapeutic CD for 30 minutes twice a day for two weeks, with at least three hours between each 30 minute session, then move on to the next CD. Our OT only said not to listen during screen time, but instead during an active period of play or art. I was a little skeptical because I didn’t understand how listening to some music could help him, and it required specially designed headphones that cost $150. You can’t get the effects by listening to the CD’s out loud on regular stereo speakers.

I love our occupational therapist. She’s a pragmatist. She said she didn’t know if the therapy actually worked, some clients with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism Spectrum Disorders, and Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) said it did, others not, but she didn’t think it could hurt. As an exhausted parent of children with issues, I’m inclined to do almost any therapy (presuming we can afford it financially) if I think there will be any benefit at all. Can I forgive myself if I skip this one, never knowing if this is “the” therapy that will solve my child’s issue and change our lives forever? I wouldn’t say I’m addicted to trying new therapies, but rather it’s a compulsion based in undying hope (or denial). I’m also driven by the idea that if I exhaust occupational therapies, maybe we can avoid pharmaceutical ones.

The Therapeutic Listening literature says it’s supposed to influence the vestibular system’s “orienting, regulation and sensory modulation, spatial and time issues, core stability and motor planning (praxis), connection, engagement, and communication,” and included a list of thirty positive potential outcomes. How could I say no?

It supposedly does this by stimulating several cranial nerves (at least V, VII, VIII, and X) through their shared connections with the auditory system in the middle ear. Stimulating these nerves in a specific way supposedly helps them do their jobs better, which includes filtering out all of the unimportant messages they receive all day long.

The system is explained in more detail in the book Listening with the Whole Body by Sheila Frick and Colleen Hacker. I also found this CNN news clip with a simple graphic. I should note that I didn’t have to buy the music CD’s as mentioned in the video, only the headphones. Our occupational therapist checks the CDs out like a library so I’m thankful that this is not costing us the small mint mentioned in the video.

We’ve been using the system imperfectly, missing a session or day here or there. I think it’s too soon to know if he’s benefiting from it. But my son actually likes the music and feels special that he has his own set of headphones and CD player so this therapy has not been as hard to implement as others we’ve tried.

Have you tried this therapy? How did it help (or not help) your family? I appreciate your thoughtful input and experience, and so do the other tired, hard-working parents who lurk here.

Lorraine Wilde is a freelance journalist, environmental scientist, and mother. Her work has appeared in Entertainment News NW, Ithaca Child, and on the parenting web site Neighborhood-Kids.com. She is writing her memoir, and also blogs at My Wilde World.