(not just) Music To Their Ears (Part 1)

Sasha Chigirinskiy in Auditory Integration Training Session

Sasha Chigirinskiy in Auditory Integration Training Session

Sound therapy, when used in conjunction with Occupational Therapy produces observable improvements in children with sensory integration deficits and paves the way for continued lifelong benefits.

Simply put, sound therapy is electronically altered music (usually classical) played through special high-tech headphones during a therapy session while the child/client is performing other therapeutic tasks and at home for prescribed sessions and durations.

After 40+ years of research using various methods and technologies, scientists have concluded that;

“. . . the ear has three primary functions: hearing, balance and body posture, and cortical reenergizing. Science has led to a greater understanding of the functions of the ear and the impact that sound, vibration, and music have on an individual’s physical and psychological states, learning,  communication,  movement, and social relatedness. Sound therapy programs are designed to address these three functions of the ear and are based on principles that are believed to underlie the therapeutic effects of music.  Occupational therapists use music to promote balance and body posture, attention, focus, arousal; as well as to promote function of the body in space and motor coordination.(Sound Therapy: A complementary Intervention for Individuals with Sensory Integration and Processing Disorders, Part 1, Sensory Integration Vol 36 Number 1, March 2013)

Each child/client is different.  In order to determine if your child could benefit from sound therapy, he must first be evaluated. Among the diagnoses (and their attending symptoms) for which sound therapy has proven effective are:soundtherapy7

  • Sensory Processing Disorders (SPD) — dificulties with:
    •  arousal
    • attention
    • auditory and somatosensory sensitivities
    • muscle tone
    • postural control
    • balance and motor coordination
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) — possible problems with
    • discriminating foreground from background sounds in the environment
    • being distracted by auditory information
    • or overly sensitive to auditory information
  • Praxis and Developmental Coordination Disorders (DCD)
    • poor tactile and vestibular processing
    • poor body awareness and spatial orientation
    • decreased postural responses
    • difficulties with bilateral coordination, rhythm, timing, sequencing, initiating, and executing movement
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)
    • sensory over-responsivity, especially to sound and touch
    • arousal and attention problems
    • sleep difficulties
    • motor planning problems

Evaluation results vary.  Anecdotal evidence in my practice show that (for my clients who were evaluated, recommended and treated with sound therapy) it has been:

  • Extremely effective for about one-fourth of my caseload
  • Very effective for the rest of my caseload
  • Minimally effective for a very small percentage of my caseload

In Part 2 I will discuss in more detail why sound therapy works in the therapeutic setting, give an example of how sound therapy is used in a specific case study, and which sound therapy programs are recommended by me and the AOTA.  Check back soon.


About Emily Lauren

Jenny Clark, OTR/L, BCP (AOTA Board Certification in Pediatrics), is a licensed pediatric occupational therapist with over 22 years experience working as a school-based occupational therapist, independent contractor for early intervention services, private practitioner, speaker, consultant, author, and inventor. Jenny currently owns a pediatric therapy private practice, Jenny’s Kids, Inc. Jenny Clark Jenny is the author of the best-selling book on sensory processing entitled Learn to Move, Move to Learn: Sensorimotor Early Childhood Activity Themes(AAPC 2004), (Starter Kit available) More recently Ms Clark has written a sequel Learn to Move, Moving Up! Sensorimotor Elementary School Activity Themes (AAPC 2009). In addition, she has published two DVD’s Learn to Move: Dinosaurs (AAPC 2005), a companion to her first book, and Sensory Processing Disorder Kit: Simulations and Solutions for Parents, Teachers, and Therapists (AAPC 2006), which won the 2007 media in excellence video award from Autism Society of America. Jenny’s newest publication is a music CD, Sing, Move, Learn (AAPC 2010), which accompanies the songs in her first book. Ms. Clark is a contributing author for the book Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Handbook for Parents and Professionals (Greenwood Publishing Group 2007), as well as a chapter author for Autism Spectrum Disorders: Foundations, Characteristics, and Effective Strategies. (Pearson Publishing 2011 by Boutot & Myles). Jenny is the inventor of the Patent-Pending “Weigh” Cool Bracelet. Jenny has spoken both nationally and internationally on a variety of topics, including sensory integration/processing. She received her bachelor’s degree in Occupational Therapy and graduated with distinction from the University of Kansas.
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