Volume 8 Number 2, 2001

Excerpts from Overcoming Autism by Georgiana Thomas

Georgiana Thomas is the daughter of Annabel Stehli. Her recover from autism as a teenager was discussed in Annabel’s book, The Sound of a Miracle (1991).

Once I was done with the A.I.T., we started our new lives in Verrier as we settled into our new apartment. Daddy started his job at Paine Webber, while the rest of us stayed home, and for the first time ever, I had a desire to have a normal social life, and to establish a network of friends. I had gotten a new skate-board and had picked up on it immediately with phenomenal balance. I was skate-boarding all over town and made friends with all the other skate-boarders in the neighborhood, I blended right in.

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There was also a notable difference in my behavior, because my tension level was way down from what it had been my whole life. For the first time ever, I could relax around noisy people and was no longer terrified by certain sounds. It was as if I had been under water my whole life, and suddenly I popped up, and could experience the world for the first time.

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My normal hearing made all the difference, and I had a totally clean slate, because of being so far removed from all of my old surroundings in New York. It seemed as if Childville had been a bad dream, and now I had woken up to this true reality of being able to have a normal life. I had put my past behind me, and only wanted to focus on my new life along with its present challenges. I was determined not to allow my past to interfere with my future.

I began to develop a relationship with my parents, and for the first time, I began to feel love for my step dad. I would feel a surge of love whenever he came home after a long day at the office. Every week day at around 6:30 PM, daddy came walking through the door and would swoop down and kiss me on the cheek. I felt so much love coming from him, and always looked forward to exchanging hugs and kisses with him at the end of the day. That was when I started responding to love like never before, because I stopped having sensory overload. My normal hearing reduced my hypersensitivity to touch, which made it possible for me to appreciate hugs and kisses.

I also got excited when my parents started disciplining me, because that was something they couldn’t do while I was away in Childville. The discipline made me feel cared for, but before long, I began to resent it because sometimes they seemed too strict. There were times when I got into serious trouble by stealing, disobeying, or back-talking which followed with spankings.

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Immediately after the A.I.T., I asked my mother to teach me how to be normal, because I knew how far behind I was socially, and I wanted so badly to measure up to my family and peers. I was willing to do almost anything to conform, because I didn’t want anyone to think I was abnormal. This was a desire which only developed after I had the auditory training, whereas before, I was so bombarded with sound and sensory overload that I didn’t care what people thought.

It is a good thing my mother had the opportunity to stay home with me as I was coming out of autism, not just for my social development, but for catching up on common worldly knowledge. We would spend hours talking about everything from history and science to psychoanalysis. I was so far behind in my historical knowledge that I didn’t even know about Hitler and the Holocaust, or the Titanic. Sometimes she was shocked at how little I knew and it was always so embarrassing, I felt like an idiot. This is what motivated me to learn as much as possible, so when I was around my peers, I could fully engage in conversations without giving the impression of an ignorant fool.

Now I was making an effort to develop social skills and was determined to be normal, so I worked hard along with my parents to get me there. This is why they had to be so strict with me, to get me to behave appropriately around people in many different situations, and to always consider others first. It was an enormous challenge for them to teach me manners and everything else I needed to know, because I was so far behind from having spent most of my childhood buried in autism and away from home. I had years of catching up to do academically and socially, and my behavioral deficits required a lot of tough love and discipline.

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If you would like to purchase a copy of this book, please send $21.00 (US funds: check or money order) to Georigana Thomas, 2840 NW Skyline Drive, Corvallis, OR 97330, USA. Price includes shipping and handling. Her email address is: Thomas777@proaxis.com

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Georgiana Institute to Sponsor ‘Celebration of Breakthroughs II’
The Georgiana Institute is sponsoring their second major conference on March 9 and 10, 2001 at the Sheraton Hotel in Stamford, Connecticut. Several of the presenters will speak about their research and experiences with auditory integration training, including Sally Brockett, Jane Madell, Julia Grenier, and Laurie Ross-Brennan. Other speakers include: Mary Jane Blackman (facilitated communication), Jeff Bradstreet and William Shaw (biological approaches), Raun Kaufman (Options Institute), Randy Schulman (vision therapy), and Karyn Seroussi (author, gluten/casein free diet). For additional information about the conference, visit the web site: www.georgianainstitute.org

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Relationship Between Sound and Sight Documented
Researchers John McDonald, Steven Hillyard and Wolfgang Teder-Salejarvi, neuroscientists at the University of California at San Diego, recently published a study showing that attending to sounds will improve one’s ability to see.

In their study, college students were instructed to detect a dimly lit visual stimulus when it appeared on either the left or the right side of a computer screen. Additionally, an auditory stimulus was presented immediately prior to the visual stimulus, and it appeared on either the same side or the opposite side of the subjects’ gaze. The results revealed that the subjects’ were much more likely to detect the visual stimulus when it occurred on the same side of the monitor as the auditory stimulus than when the auditory stimulus was presented on the opposite side of the screen.

The researchers concluded that when attending to a sound, in this case a ‘sudden’ sound, one’s ability to attend visually improves dramatically.

Implications. Many children with developmental disabilities, such as autism, have problems in attention and auditory processing. The findings by McDonald and his colleagues suggest that their attention problems may hinder their ability to attend visually. Co-author Dr. Teder-Salejarvi felt that these findings may provide insight into perceptual processing in children with attention deficit disorder.

A common parental report following auditory integration training (AIT) is an improvement in both auditory and visual attention in their children. Researchers should consider employing an experimental paradigm similar to the one used by McDonald and his colleagues to examine whether or not an auditory intervention, such as AIT or the Samonas method, may enhance a person’s ability to detect a visual stimulus.

This research study was published in Nature, October 19, 2000.

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SLC Introduces Their New ‘Fast ForWord Reading’ Program
The Scientific Learning Corporation (SLC) recently unveiled their new tutorial program at the national conference of the American Speech and Hearing Association. ‘Fast ForWord Reading’ is the third program in SLC’s series of tutorial programs, the next program in the sequence following ‘Fast ForWord’ and ‘Step 4word.’ ‘Fast ForWord Reading’ teaches reading skills similar to those included in the standard school curriculum.

For more information, visit their web site at: www.scilearn.com/fastforwordreading

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Children with CAPD May Be Misdiagnosed with ADHD
Dr. Frank Musiek, director and researcher at the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire, has suggested that many children who are diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) should, more appropriately, be diagnosed with central auditory processing disorder (CAPD). According to Dr. Musiek, children with CAPD typically have only their auditory sense impaired; and thus, their primary problem is auditory processing. In contrast, children with ADHD typically have two or more senses impaired; and they also have attention and behavioral problems.

Several conventional interventions are used to treat CAPD, such as auditory exercises and relying on different listening and learning strategies.

Since children with CAPD have difficulty perceiving phonemes, (i.e., basic speech sounds), other auditory interventions, such as Fast ForWord and Earobics, may also help children with CAPD. Additionally, Huskey, Barnett, and Cimorelli (1994) gave auditory integration training to children with CAPD. Follow-up measures conducted 2 to 3 months post-AIT indicated improvements on a central auditory processing task (i.e., Staggered Spondaic Word Test).

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Alzheimer Patients Benefit from Music Therapy
A study conducted by A.M. Kumar and his colleagues at the Miami Veterans Administration Medical Center examined the effects of music therapy on 20 male patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. The patients participated in a 30- to 40-minute music therapy program, five times a week for one month. Blood samples were obtained from the patients prior to, soon after completing the four-week music therapy program, and at a six-week follow-up.

Kumar found significant increases in melatonin, norepinephrine and epinephrine after the completion of the four-week therapy program. At the six-week follow-up, melatonin levels were still significantly high, but epinephrine and norepinephrine levels had returned to their pre-therapy levels.

Kumar and his colleagues also observed an improvement in sleep patterns and behavior (i.e., more relaxed and calm) in the patients. The researchers attributed these improvements to the increase in melatonin, a hormone associated with arousal level.

Consistent with these findings, Dr. Jaak Panksepp of Bowling Green State University had, in 1996/7, reported increases in norepinephrine levels in chickens exposed to auditory integration training (AIT) and to unmodulated music. Additionally, several years ago Lisa Boswell conducted an extensive review of the research literature on melatonin, melanin (a derivative of melatonin), and autism. She theorized, rather convincingly, that the benefits often observed following AIT may be due to an increase in melatonin/melanin (see The Sound Connection, 1995, Vol. 3, No. 2 for a description of Boswell’s theory).

Kurmar’s research study appeared in Alternative Therapies and Health Medicine, 1999, Vol. 5, No. 6, pp. 49-57.

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The Clark Method of AIT
Stephen M. Edelson and William Clark

The last issue of The Sound Connection included a description of Berard’s AIT filtering method. This procedure was developed for the AudioKinetron, a popular AIT device. Another popular AIT device is the BGC Audio Tone Enhancer/Trainer (ATET), and the filtering procedure for this device is the ‘Clark AIT method.’

For several years, proponents debated whether the AudioKinetron was more effective than the ATET and vice versa; but research has not uncovered any differences with respect to the behavioral outcomes of the listeners. However, there are quite a few differences between the Berard AIT method and the Clark AIT method. Since many practitioners use the ATET, we decided to describe the Clark AIT method to help ensure that this method is utilized correctly. The Clark AIT method entails two types of filtering procedures–one involving narrow-band filters and one involving wide-band filters.

Narrow-band filtering. Up to four filters can be activated simultaneously on the ATET, but the recommended number of filters is two or less. In contrast to the Berard AIT method, the Clark AIT method is quite simple–auditory peaks of 10 dB or greater are filtered. An ‘auditory peak’ is filtered when there is at least a 10 dB difference between a frequency and its adjacent frequencies. ‘Auditory pleateaus’ are also filtered. An ‘auditory plateau’ occurs when two adjacent frequencies are equal, and there is a 10 dB or more difference in relation to the frequencies on both sides of the plateau.

Wide-band filtering. The ATET allows for the practitioner to control, and thus individualize, the type of wide-band filtering for each listener. Wide-band filtering is often referred to as ‘modulation.’ In contrast, the practitioner cannot control the wide-band filters on the AudioKinetron.

Based on the configuration of the audiogram, the practitioner can control the modulation on the low end of the frequency spectrum, referred to as ‘Low’ (20 Hz to 1000 Hz); the high end of the frequency spectrum, referred to as ‘High’ (1000 Hz to 22 KHz); and/or the entire frequency spectrum, referred to as ‘Level’ (20 Hz to 22 KHz).

‘Low’ and ‘High’ Wide-Band Filters. With respect to ‘Low’ and ‘High’ controls, these filters can be set to ‘modulate,’ ‘flat,’ or ‘cut.’ When the control is set to ‘modulate,’ the music is modulated (i.e., frequencies are varied over a 40 dB range). When the control is set to ‘level,’ the music is not modulated. When the control is set to ‘cut,’ the music is not modulated and the decibel level is reduced by 20 dB.

‘Level’ Wide-Band Filtering. This control can be set to ‘modulate,’ ‘flat,’ or ‘full/high.’ When the control is set to ‘modulate,’ the entire frequency spectrum, from 20 Hz to 22 KHz, is modulated. When the control is set to ‘flat,’ the music is not modulated. When the control is set to ‘full/high,’ the music is not modulated and the entire frequency spectrum is increased by 20 dB.

In order to appreciate the flexibility of the ATET, several examples are described below. A description of every possible combination of modulation settings is beyond the scope of this article.

Example A
If the listening test indicates relatively good hearing across the entire frequency spectrum, with the exception of specific auditory peaks, wide-band filters can be set in either one of two ways:

Setting 1. ‘Low’ and ‘High’ controls are set to ‘modulate,’ and ‘Level’ is set to ‘flat.’ These settings emulate the wide-band filtering (modulation) of the AudioKinetron. In this way, the entire spectrum is modulated (i.e., ‘Low’: 1000 Hz and lower, ‘High’: 1000 Hz and higher).

Setting 2. The ‘Low’ and ‘High’ controls are set to ‘flat,’ and ‘Level’ is set to ‘modulate.’ In this way, the entire spectrum is modulated.

Note: if all three controls are set to ‘modulate,’ the entire spectrum is modulated twice, once by the ‘Level’ control and once by the ‘Low’ and ‘High’ controls. This type of setting causes an extremely processed and ‘warp’ sound, which is dramatically different than the original modulation developed by Dr. Guy Berard for the AudioKinetron.

Example B
Hearing thresholds in the low end of the frequency spectrum are in the normal range, but thresholds are, overall, relatively high (i.e., poor listening/hearing) in the high end of the spectrum. In this case, the goal is to provide additional stimulation to the high end of the spectrum in order to increase listening (e.g., acuity) in this end of the spectrum.

Setting. ‘High’ and ‘Level’ controls are set to ‘modulate,’ and the ‘Low’ control is set to ‘flat.’ In this way, the high end of the frequency spectrum receives twice the amount of modulation, i.e., from the ‘High’ and ‘Level’ controls. The low end of the frequency spectrum receives the normal amount of modulation from the ‘Level’ control (which modulates the entire frequency spectrum). [A similar logic would apply when the hearing thresholds are relatively high in the low frequency spectrum, and the thresholds are in the normal range in the high frequency spectrum. Setting. ‘Low’ and ‘Level’ controls are set to ‘modulate,’ and ‘High’ control is set to ‘flat.’]

Example C
Hearing thresholds are exceptionally low (i.e., hyperacute) in the high frequency range, and the thresholds are relatively normal in the low frequency range. The goal in this scenario is to reduce the amount of stimulation in the high frequency range and to provide normal modulation to the low frequency range.

Setting. ‘Low’ control is set to ‘modulate;’ ‘High’ control is set to ‘cut;’ and the ‘Level’ control is set to ‘flat.’ In this way, the low end of the spectrum is modulated; and the high end of the spectrum is not modulated and its volume level is reduced. [A similar logic would apply when the hearing thresholds are too high in the low end of the frequency spectrum and normal hearing for the high end of the spectrum. Setting: Low: cut, High: modulate, Level: flat.]

Example D
Hearing thresholds are relatively high (i.e., relatively poor listening/hearing) across the entire spectrum.

In this case, the entire spectrum should be modulated. The ‘Low’ and ‘High’ controls are set to ‘modulate,’ and the ‘Level’ control is set to ‘full/high.’ In this way, the entire spectrum is modulated, and the overall decibel level is increased by 10 dB.

Final Note. Research on the efficacy of the AudioKinetron has relied on the Berard AIT method, and research on the efficacy of the ATET has relied on the Clark AIT method. There is no empirical evidence that the Berard AIT method will be effective on the ATET nor the Clark AIT method will be effective on the AudioKinetron. Consequently, SAIT does not recommend using the Berard AIT method for the ATET nor the Clark AIT method for the AudioKinetron.