Stephen Porges, Ph.D., a professor of Human Development at the University of Maryland, may be closing in on the reason why Auditory Integration Training and other similar auditory interventions may be beneficial to children with autism and other related disorders. Dr. Porges’ work has been described in a previous issue of The Sound Connection, but we are learning more about his hypotheses and research findings (see The Sound Connection, Vol. 6, No. 4).
Similar to the works of Dr. Alfred Tomatis and Dr. Guy Berard, Dr. Porges’ research has focused on the two muscles in the middle ear -- the tensor tympani and the stapedius. Dr. Porges has found that the same nerves that control these two muscles also control vocalization, facial expression, heart rate and breathing.
When we experience fear and/or anxiety, the two muscles in the middle ear can no longer diminish low-frequency sounds. Based on an evolutionary perspective, this would allow the individual to attend to all sounds in his/her environment in order to perceive danger rather than attending mostly to higher frequency sounds such as speech.
According to Dr. Porges, many children with developmental disabilities are in a state of high anxiety. As a result, it is difficult for them to attend to only the high frequency sounds such as human speech.
Dr. Porges has developed an intervention that is similar to AIT and the Tomatis method. First, the child is encouraged to relax. This may include playing with toys or sitting/resting in a quiet area. This, in itself, should improve the function of the middle ear because the child will be less anxious. The child then listens to specific sounds or music within a narrow frequency range. This is similar to the frequency range of human speech. Gradually, the frequency range is widened which is intended to vigorously exercise the two muscles in the middle ear.
Since the middle ear muscles share the same neural connection with facial expression and vocalization, Dr. Porges expects to see an improvement in communication as a result of an improvement in middle ear function. His 10 years of research on this subject has supported this hypothesis.
Dr. Porges’ line of research is very exciting and may lead to better understanding of some of the Auditory Integration Training effects. However, it does not seem to explain changes in many other areas such as handwriting and drawing, variety in diet, balance and coordination, sensory processing, vision skills, sleep patterns, etc. Some of these changes may result from stimulation of the cerebellar-vestibular system.
Neural Hearing Loss in Chronic Obits Media
by Pap, Z., Razes, S., Joke, I., & Silken, I. (2003).
Infections: Impact on Learning,
excerpts from article by Dianne Craft
"Ninety per cent of hyperactive children studied gave a history of three or more ear infections..." according to a study published in the May 1997 issue of Clinical Pediatrics. In a 1987 article in Parents Pediatric Report, researchers stated, "Ear infections and their effect on language development are prominent topics in pediatric literature. Hyperactivity is another item of great interest...On the surface they seem to be two unrelated entities. But could there be a connection between these two conditions? Very much so, says a study from the University of Colorado in Denver, and Yeshiva University in New York.
Early childhood ear infections, which plague many of our children, often succeed in administering an effective, "one-two punch" to a child. First, the subsequent, repeated use of antibiotics to clear up the infection upsets the child's natural intestinal ecology, resulting in an irritated nervous system. Second, the infection and inflammation of the ear often causes some damage to the "cilia" of the ear, the tiny hair-like structures of the ear that help transmit sound, affecting both language abilities and auditory processing. These effects can be felt throughout a child's school career. However, once the cause is established many natural things can be done to greatly reduce, and eliminate these problems.
Effects of Repeated Antibiotic Use
We are very grateful for the discovery of antibiotics. Their timely use has saved many lives. However, the multiple use of antibiotics, particularly the use of the broad spectrum antibiotics such as Septra and Ceclor, sterilize a child's intestines, eliminating the good bacteria, while feeding the naturally occurring yeast in the intestines. This causes an upset balance in the ecology that directly affects a child's nervous system. Some books that explain this process in more detail are, Help for Your Hyperactive Child by William Crook, M.D. and Superimmunity for Kids by Leo Galland, M.D. Most often we see this upset ecology manifesting itself as problems with learning or with behavior. The learning problems associated with this condition are a poor memory, difficulty with sustained attention (often seeming "spacey"), and difficulty understanding new concepts.
The behavior problems that we see are hyperactivity, anger, moodiness, irritability, or inappropriate behavior, often talking too loudly or invading others' space regularly. In my experience working with bright but struggling students in special education and regular education programs I have seen many children exhibiting these symptoms. Some of them are placed on the medication Ritalin. Others are labeled with a learning disability, often with an auditory or language processing dysfunction. A smaller group are placed in a behavior lab program in the school, with an individual IEP designed to modify their unsociable behavior. When I have studied the files of this diverse group of children, however, I have often found a common link. I found that many of them suffered with many ear infections as a young child. I also found that even more of the children have some type of allergy. As we know, when yeast overgrowth is an issue, the child often develops a "leaky gut", causing food allergies to develop.
The most common offending food, in the case of ear infections or bed wetting, is milk and milk products. I have seen so many children's "learning and behavior problems," respond to simple interventions such as a trial elimination of dairy products, along with replacing some of the missing good bacteria in the intestines. To replace the good bacteria, a parent can simply buy a product in a health food store that contains the good bacterial strains, acidophilus and bifidus. Although this good bacteria is present in yogurt, it is in very small amounts. When purchasing a more concentrated form of this good bacteria as a supplement, buy a brand that is refrigerated in the health food store, since this is a live bacteria. It can be purchased in capsule or powder, and placed in juice or cold food without altering its taste. The liquid and chewable forms of this supplement are far less viable. Parents report to me that giving their child this natural beneficial bacteria two or three times a day often results in a reduction in temper tantrums, less irritability, better concentration, and a more cooperative child. Along with Acidophilus we have found Grapefruit Seed Extract to be helpful. GSE is an antifungal that reduces the colonies of yeast overgrowth thus helping to restore the bodies natural balance between good bacteria and yeast. We always suggest taking one supplement for at least a week before adding another one. This helps you to identify any adverse reaction your child may have.
Reducing sugar intake also makes a noticeable difference in behavior. There are many more things that can be done to help a child whose nervous system is upset due to the multiple use of antibiotics, but this is a good beginning and almost always brings good results.
One of the results of multiple childhood ear infections can be difficulty with language and auditory processing. These children have difficulty distinguishing certain sounds. Sometimes this difficulty with the discrimination of individual sounds can present itself as a speech problem or in learning phonics. Both their reading and their spelling are affected. It also affects the way that they are able to listen. We frequently accuse our children of having, "selective hearing", meaning that they choose to listen to things other than their parents. This can be the case of course, but because of the amount of energy the process of listening and storing auditory information requires, the child can do only so much listening, before he tunes out because of the overload.
At times these children are inaccurately diagnosed as being ADD (attention deficit disorder), when actually their attention is dependent on the amount of auditory processing that is required for a situation. These children often have difficulty sequencing, as represented by repeating a story with the events in proper order. They also have difficulty hearing their own internal voice, preferring to read aloud to understand information. Tasks that require alphabetizing are particularly onerous to them, as they have to repeat the alphabet over and over to themselves in their head. They often do anything to avoid this type of task. What are some things that we can do to help our child with these kinds of problems resulting from multiple ear infections? We can teach them in a more visual manner, using pictures for clarification, teaching phonic sounds (called phonemes) with the letter combination superimposed on a picture that gives that sound. We can teach them right brain strategies such as visualizing a word to more easily memorize its' spelling. We can teach them math facts using funny stories and pictures, using their right brain to store them, rather than the rote learning that the left, auditory brain hemisphere enjoys. And we can use natural vitamin supplements to help heal the auditory system. As mentioned earlier, the "cilia" of the ear is affected by multiple ear infections. In his book, Feed Your Kids Right, by Lendon H. Smith, M.D., the famous "baby doctor," states that the highest concentration of vitamin A in the whole body is in the cilia of the ear. After multiple ear infections the store of this vitamin is greatly depleted. Often these children hear noises in their ear that are very distracting to them.
Children I see often describe the sound as a mosquito buzzing close to their ear, or like the "whoosh" of wind in their ear. Knowing that a deficiency of essential fatty acids is often found in learning disabilities, we can supplement them by using some orange flavored cod liver oil, which is a good source of both vitamin A and essential fatty acids. Flaxseed oil (not capsules) that also contains borage oil is helpful in addition to the cod liver oil. Of course you would always add some vitamin E in the form of drops or capsules to keep the oil from oxidizing in the body. Along with a good yeast-free multiple vitamin and separate multiple mineral, a healing program would be started. For regular readers of the CHEC Update, the information given in the last issue on the use of lecithin to reduce auditory processing problems, would help round out this important program. According to the research, after four months, the child's information processing should be much easier. Although the impact of multiple childhood ear infections on a child's learning and behavior can be large, it does not have to be permanent. There are many natural approaches to correcting the influence of these ear infections. Learning can become easier and a child's nervous system can be calmed by using the natural supplements that God has given us.
"One of the most exciting areas in which I have seen lecithin make noticeable differences is in the improvement of auditory processing function in children. I have received many reports from speech pathologists and parents telling of greatly improved auditory processing (hearing and remembering) in children who take this natural soybean product. My experience is that when lecithin is taken alone, it is very helpful, but when taken along with the essential fatty acids (fish oil, flaxseed oil, evening primrose oil) and Vitamin E, it produces marked results. Because of its fat emulsifying properties it helps the child's body digest the extra oils, thereby making use of them properly.
Many children who have suffered with numerous ear infections benefit from the regular use of lecithin. The "cilia of the ear," (the tiny hair-like parts of the ear) are frequently damaged when many ear infections have occurred. It is known that the highest concentration of Vitamin A in the whole body is in the "cilia" of the ear. Lecithin increases the body's absorption of this vital Vitamin A dramatically. Thus it is very healing to the areas in the ear structure and brain that affect efficient auditory processing function. In the MIT study referred to earlier, in testing adult subjects in learning and memory tasks, it was found that the subjects taking lecithin daily showed "improvement of thinking and intelligence." Since we know that the left hemisphere of the brain is responsible for auditory storage, and we often refer to it as the "thinking hemisphere," we can see how any substance that improves auditory processing would also affect the thinking ability of the brain. The MIT study also referred to substantial improvement in the area of speech. Again, this is mainly a left-brain function. This is a very exciting application of research, since auditory processing problems are historically difficult and lengthy to treat. Dr. Levinson, a neurologist from New York, in his book Total Concentration, states that he frequently uses lecithin to help both attention and learning in his young patients."