By Valerie Dejean,
Director, Spectrum Center and Certified Tomatis
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit
Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) are terms familiar to most, as it is
regularly discussed in the media. Most people perceive individuals with
these disorders as persons who are easily distracted and overly
impulsive or restless. Some individuals with Attention Deficit
Disorder, however, are actually very quiet and to themselves; they seem
almost "not there". But what is ADD? What are its causes and, more
importantly, what can be done to help individuals with Attention
one million American children are diagnosed with ADD/ADHD, and the
majority of them are taking medication, an issue of great concern to
many parents and professionals. A review of scientific literature shows
that ADD is hotly debated among experts. Some feel that ADD syndrome
lacks supportive evidence and should be clinically discarded (G. Coles,
L. Fleisher, and P. Breggin).
Others believe that ADD is a neurological syndrome, the cause of
which might be genetic. Endorsers of this view admit, however, that the
exact underlying mechanism of ADD is unknown: There is no single lesion
of the brain, no single neurotransmitter system, no single gene we have
identified that triggers ADD. (Hallowell and Ratey). Running counter to
the neuro-biological explanation is the fact that ADD is diagnosed more
often in boys than girls and ten times more often in America than in
Europe. In fact, the Japanese report very few cases of ADD.
As you can see, ADD is a riddle far from being solved.
Sensory Integration and ADD
Little attention has been given to the possibility that a lack of
sensory integration might play a role in ADD. Jean Ayres, the pioneer
of Sensory Integration Theory, pointed out that poor sensory
integration could lead to both hyperactivity and poor attention. She
concluded that these problems arise when the vestibular system, located
in the inner ear, does not function well. "A well-modulated vestibular
activity is very important for maintaining a calm, alert state. The
vestibular system also helps keep the level of arousal of the nervous
system balanced. An under-active vestibular system contributes to
hyperactivity and distractibility because of the lack of its modulating
What happens if the vestibular system
cannot integrate sensory information well?
There are actually
two possibilities. In some cases, the vestibular system becomes
overloaded with too much information. As a protective response, it
"tunes out" in order to calm things down. This tuning out of stimuli is
diagnosed as attention deficit. In other cases, the vestibular system
is unable to provide the brain with the sensory stimulation it needs in
order to function optimally. In response, the body finds other ways of
stimulating the vestibule and brain, such as constant body movement.
This response would be
diagnosed as hyperactivity.
he fact that many individuals display a mixture of attention deficit
and hyperactivity indicates that both forms of dysfunction can occur
within the same person. Praxis, or motor planning is another sensory
integration function that provides a foundation for attention. Praxis
is a uniquely human quality that allows individuals to develop
higher-level skills and to interact purposefully with each other and
the world. Individuals with dyspraxia are often unable to competently
use objects or successfully play with toys because they cannot come up
with a plan to organize their movements. As a result, they do not give
their full attention to any of these activities. We all need the
feedback of successful interactions with the environment and others to
maintain sustained attention. Otherwise our involvements are fleeting.
Dr. Alfred Tomatis,
Listening, and ADD
Jean Ayres' Sensory Integration Theory implies that one can overcome
ADD by retraining the vestibular system. Dr. Alfred Tomatis, the French
Ear, Nose, and Throat physician responsible for developing the Tomatis
Method of auditory stimulation, agrees wholeheartedly. Since the
inception of Tomatis' auditory re-education program, thousands of
individuals diagnosed with ADD have benefited from auditory stimulation
or "listening training."
Tomatis draws a sharp distinction between hearing and listening.
Hearing is the passive reception of sound. Listening involves both the
ability and desire to tune in to the auditory information around us as
well as to filter out unwanted stimulation. Individuals with ADD, like
all of us, are constantly bombarded with information. However, since
their tuning and filtering mechanisms are not functioning properly,
individuals with ADD are unable to sort out, classify, and organize the
information they are receiving. A new stimulus comes that requires
their attention, but they are unable to focus on it because they
already need to attend to the next stimulus, and so on.
In a sense, individuals with ADD are extremely attentive, too
attentive because they have no barrier to protect themselves from the
continuous barrage of information around them. To break this cycle,
individuals with ADD need to train the ear to tune in to, and filter
out, stimuli; in other words, to integrate sensory input effectively.
Tomatis' method of auditory stimulation, combined with sensory
integration activities that stimulate the vestibular system, can help
the ear develop to its fullest capacity of listening. One parent
reports after her child completed the listening training program at the
Spectrum Center that,
"It used to take two hours to get
out the door in the morning and now Paul is ready before I am. We're
not fighting over homework and there are many days now when he gets it
done himself. Our family life is totally different."
Children are not the only individuals affected by Attention
Deficit Disorders. Many individuals have coped with attention issues
well into adulthood before being identified. After years of frustration
and failure these individuals self-esteem is often severely impacted.
They are not living their lives to their full potential. One
55-year-old client wrote, "I can only say that Tomatis Listening
Training has allowed me to sit down and focus for long periods of time
without giving up or getting anxious about a situation. What a terrific
feeling of accomplishment."
How The Spectrum Center Can Help
Since 1992 the Spectrum Center has pioneered the combination of
developmental sensory techniques with the auditory training theories of
Dr Alfred Tomatis in what we call the-Spectrum Center Method. We have
found this combination very helpful in the listening training of
persons with ADD/ADHD. The vestibular system and the cochlear system,
housed in the inner ear,
provide the brain with 90% of all of the sensory input it needs to stay
alert and optimally energized. The Spectrum Center uses the Tomatis
Method auditory stimulation to provide the vestibular/cochlear system
with maximum stimulation to encourage a calm focused and alert state.
The Spectrum Center also incorporates audio-vocal training (through
combination microphone/headphone work) to further hone the ear's
ability to tune in to important information (such as someone talking)
and filter out background noise. If you would like to know more about
how the Spectrum Center can help you or a child with ADD and ADHD,
please contact us at 845 915-3288. Or write us at 322 Route 17 Suite 4,
Tuxedo Park, NY 10987-0698
Copyright 2010 William J. Kennick