“Some people will say that the essence of autism is the inability to model other minds”
Dr. Norman Doidge, MD
Our world is framed by our perception. There is no “reality”. There is no good or bad. There is only perception of an experience. Is a rollercoaster ride terrifying or exhilarating?
Your brain uses about 20% of the total energy consumption of your body to perform all of its processing tasks. Our sense organs take energy from the outside world and convert it into electrical signals. Your eyes take photons and convert them to electrical signals and your ears do the same with sound waves. Our sense organs are transducers –taking energy of one form and converting it to another. In sensory integration dysfunction—the signals get jammed or the system gets overwhelmed which can lead to meltdowns in hypersensitive children. A clothing tag can feel like being stabbed in the neck. On the other hand, a child could show absolutely no sign of pain while getting an injection.
Every living being is hard wired to survive threats to their existence by recognizing fight or flight situations. There are certain frequencies that human beings recognize as speech—just like each bird makes its own sound to warn other birds that a cat is near or to attract a mate. Lower frequencies tend to be a warning—like the hissing of a snake or the low growl of a wolf that makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck. There is a reason for that. Even Hollywood monsters have low frequency sounds; who can forget the “shark” music from “Jaws”?
Human beings perceive the world through their senses. The ear is involved in 90% of the information that stimulates your brain. Your brain recognizes and interprets the sounds around you that are taken in by the ear and processed efficiently. The vibrations are turned into electrical impulses (seen on the waves of an EEG machine) and your auditory processing system interprets the sounds and responds to those sounds in a meaningful and appropriate way.
It’s a well-known fact that children with autism, ADD, and other learning disorders are hypersensitive to sound. Many show outward signs of inner confusion and disorder—like covering their ears, avoiding eye contact, screaming, head banging, etc. in an effort to quiet the relentless noise. In autistic children with sound sensitivities, with sensory integration dysfunction, or auditory processing disorder—there is no differentiation of frequencies. Their auditory zoom (like the lens in a camera only in your ear) can’t focus on the frequencies of human speech. They are often only hearing sounds that are low frequency and threatening. They can’t understand why those sounds are so terrifying and why no one else feels terrified.
A French doctor named Alfred Tomatis (Link below) discovered that you could restore the human auditory zoom by taking music and modifying the frequency to integrate both comfortable and uncomfortable sounds. He worked with classical music scores from Mozart, because the higher frequencies of the music are energizing and stimulating to the cortex. Sometimes it is merely strengthening the muscles of the ear to expand and contract. Just like building muscles at the gym, building strong ear muscles makes them better filters of sound. Physical changes can take place in a matter of days. Physical changes to the structure of the brain can be seen on scans. As children develop their auditory zoom, amazing things happen. They begin to “engage” in social interactions. The “social engagement system” allows human beings to modulate their speech, look people in the eye and respond appropriately. If you are constantly in fight or flight mode because of low frequency sounds, your social engagement system is turned off.
There’s no time to chat when the “Jaws” music is playing 24/7. Along with the brain confusion, comes digestive dis-ease. The gut-brain connection has been firmly established. The gut “feels” everything the brain senses. Remember the “gut feeling?” And lest we forget—fight or flight mode also shuts down rest and digest mode. Healing leaky gut and digestive disorders, which lead to inflammation, is critical to the multifaceted healing approach to all disease. Autism is no exception. Sleep and digestion give the brain and body time to clean up toxins and regenerate new connections. The GAPS diet (resource below) has been effectively helping children on all ends of the autism spectrum for many years thanks to work of Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride.
This music therapy is not new but it is unlikely you’ve ever heard of it or Dr. Tomatis. (Links below) This is a non-invasive, non-drug way to retrain the brain and allow for neuro-differentiation in the auditory cortex of not just autistic children, but also stroke patients, those with attention deficits, brain injured patients, etc. Most drugs are used to treat symptoms and assume that the brain is “broken.” They have to be taken regularly and don’t “fix” anything. No one suffers from a deficiency of brain altering drugs! Often times these medications simply add a toxin to an already overburdened immune system with little or no effect. Music therapy can turn off fight or flight and restore the brain function—many times with great improvement in social interaction or taking the child off the autism spectrum. Without medication or side effects!
Dr. Norman Doidge from Toronto, Canada is the best-selling author of two books about brain neuroplasticity (normal property of the brain that allows it to change its physical structure and its function in response to mental experience and activity): The Brain’s Way of Healing and The Brain That Changes Itself. Dr. Doidge has seen many autism cases improved and/or reversed during his many years of research and experience in the field. He sums up music therapy as follows:
“Some people will say that the essence of autism is the inability to model other minds. But again, what’s happening here? We’re using patterns of information contained in energy to modify the brain circuitry and re-sculpt it, build new processors, in some ways, silence the noisy brain so that the brain can function at capacity.”
Imagine releasing the grip of fear that is autism by simply modifying the perception of it? Imagine a child feeling safe enough to engage you in a hug, to laugh and swing and just be a child? What a gift to the Mother of a child with autism.
Dr. Tomatis Therapy/Tomatis Sound Training
Books mentioned above can be found on Amazon