LEARNING DIFFICULTIES

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DISCLAIMER: The following content is meant to be educational to enable individuals to make informed decisions. It is NOT intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding treatment.

The Listening Centre

Autism, Dyslexia, Attention, Auditory Processing & More

Located in Toronto, Canada, The Listening Centre (TLC) uses intensive, in-person, customized listening therapy to improve the brain's ability to process sound. The method was developed by Dr. Alfred Tomatis, the father of listening therapy, and Paul Madaule, whom himself overcame Dyslexia using the methodology. TLC has been in operation for over 40 years and has treated over 10,000 patients from across the globe. 

TLC notes that the ears have two different but complementary systems - the cochlea, which perceives audible sound (20-20,000 Hz) and the vestibular system, which detects lower frequencies (<20hz) and movements.  The vestibular system operates as the body's compass, detecting its position in three-dimensional space. The listening function is the ability of these two systems to work in a coordinated manner to permit the brain to process the information it needs and leave out unnecessary or unwelcome ‘noise’.  The brain's ability to accurately process information from each ear independently and in coordination has far-reaching implications in a person's ability to process oral and written language and determine spatial and self-awareness.  For these reasons listening is at the base of most skills involved in communication, verbal as well as non-verbal socialization, language, and learning. When calibrated and used in a specific way, sound stimulation such as music and the voice can be powerful tools to develop and improve listening.     

TLC's program typically requires two 15-day two-hour sessions at the Centre with a six-week break between. The first session is passive in nature and involves listening to various frequencies of music while engaging in other activities.  The second session, and third if needed, is active and involves reading out loud to engage and entrain the body's associated muscles.  The program includes follow-up reviews during a period of one year to ensure its long-term effect and provide extra support when required.

 

In addition to learning difficulties, the therapy can help those wishing to improve their musical skills, voice quality and ability to learn a second language. It has been recently been shown to work on people suffering listening and verbal challenges due to stroke or traumatic brain injury.  Learn more by visiting their website here: https://www.listeningcentre.com/

Arrowsmith Program

Broad  Base of Learning Difficulties 

The Arrowsmith Program was developed by Barbara Arrowsmith-Young who overcame her own severe learning disorder with an intensive cognitive strengthening program that she has fine-tuned into a program for children and adults with difficulties in memory, speech, language, motor skills, and many others.  

 

Ms. Young's program was initially developed using research conducted by A. R. Luria, which showed that complex cognitive activities, such as reading, writing, and mathematics, require the interaction of several areas of the brain, and that each individual brain area has a very specific role to play. If one of the brain areas engaged in the higher-level activity is impaired, then the higher-level activity will also be impaired.  Using this foundational research and an understanding of her own brain dysfunction, Barbara developed the intensive mental exercises that she honed to overcome her own dysfunction and now utilizes in her programs.  

 

Ms. Young runs two schools located in Canada and has developed a learning program that can be implemented by independent schools.  There are a total of 87 schools globally that use the program.  It typically requires 3-4 years of program immersion to be fully effective, depending on the severity of the learning disorder.  Benefits are life long.    Learn more information here:  https://arrowsmithschool.org/

Designs for Strong Minds

Attention, Dyslexia, Processing, Cognitive Enhancement, Executive Functioning

Dr. Donalee Markus's cognitive restructuring program, which she has been fine-tuning since the 70's, shifts the way individuals analyze and process information. Because the program changes the way in which you think, rather than working to address specific challenges, it has a wide range of efficacy, from helping individuals recover from TBI or stroke to helping children with ADHD, Dyslexia, or processing challenges improve their executive functioning and spatial awareness capabilities.  The program is also effective for professional development, most notably being used by NASA to enhance the creativity and problem-solving skills of Space Shuttle engineers.   

 

A key element of the program is the use of context-free games, both digital and paper.  The context-free component minimizes emotional engagement, enabling the brain's cognitive components to work unencumbered, which accelerates cognitive restructuring. This allows Dr. Markus's patients to see significant benefits in short time frames. 

 

In addition to being highlighted in Norman Doidge's book, "The Brain That  Changes Itself", you can read about the impact of Dr. Markus's therapy from a first-hand perspective in Clark Elliot's book "The  Ghost in My Brain. 

Examples of the digital and pencil / paper exercises can be found HERE.  Learn more about the program here: 

https://www.designsforstrongminds.com

Interactive Metronome

Attention, Coordination, Self-control, Executive Functioning & More

Interactive Metronome (IM) therapy, started in the 1990s is a program in which an individual uses headphones, a computer screen, and a rhythmic beat to perform a variety of exercises while trying to stay on this beat. 

The brain has its own internal clock or temporal processing system (timekeeper) which is offbeat in some children and adults due to developmental issues, disease or brain damage, which causes them to run too fast (impulsive, inconsiderate) or too slow (unmotivated, unsocial).  IM allows individuals to retrain the clock by learning to listen to and react to sounds.  It is hypothesized that this works by creating more efficient brain connectivity, communication, and synchronization between critical brain networks.  

Treatment is typically provided by occupational or physical therapists in weekly 1-hour sessions.  Over time, the length of the exercises (within the hour) is gradually increased as is the exercise difficulty level. Auditory and visual distractions are added as appropriate.   

While many clinics and therapists provide IM, you can learn more about the science and process at these sites: 

https://www.amenclinics.com/services/interactive-metronome-training/

or   

https://www.interactivemetronome.com/

Integrated Listening System (iLs)

Autism, Dyslexia, Attention, Auditory Processing & More

The iLs, developed by Dr. Ron Minson, uses Alfred Tomatis's sound therapy as a foundation, adding in movement therapy to create a multisensory approach that improves the brain and body's organization.  In addition to using the system in his own clinical psychiatric practice, Dr. Minson created a portable device and protocol that is used by over 10,000 certified therapists in 30 countries and can be purchased directly for at-home use in consultation with a remote therapist.

Dr. Minson's research has helped update Alfred Tomatis's theories and brought light to exactly how music therapy works, showing that sound from the ears is first processed in the subcortical areas of the brain, rather than in the frontal lobes as originally thought.  Minson showed that the subcortical areas processing sound also processed other sensory inputs.  Adding movement to the listening therapy allowed multiple brain functions to be stimulated simultaneously, further fine-tuning the brain's timing of thoughts, movements, and balance.  Minson's "ground-up" approach of improving sub-cortical brain function ensures the signals being sent to the cortex where more complex processing occurs, such as reading comprehension, are strong and clear.   

 

The iLs program is typically administered by a trained therapist who sees the individual in the office once a week followed by 30-60 minutes of activity at home 3-5 days per week over several months.  The program is customized for each individual based on initial challenges and progress.  Dr. Minson also recommends the use of neurofeedback in some cases.  You can find a therapist and learn more here: https://integratedlistening.com/ils-focus-series/ 

Neurofeedback

Attention, Anxiety, Epilepsy, Depression, TBI

Neurofeedback is a form of neuroplastic training that resets the rhythm of the brain.  Brain dysrhythmia, where the brain fires out of sequence, is a root cause for many brain dysfunctions.  When neurons fire by the millions, they create brain waves.  Different brain waves correlate with levels of conscious arousal.  They are slower if the person enters a dreamy state and faster if anxious.  A conventional neurofeedback session involves hooking a person up to an EEG and sending feedback back to them while they play a game, listen to music, or watch a video.  The stimuli (game, music, or video) only operates smoothly when their brainwaves are functioning within an optimal range. This acts as a reward for your brain. When your brainwaves fire at a rate that’s not optimal, you’ll receive negative feedback the movie pauses, music stops, etc.). This tells the brain that something is out of balance and causes it to “figure out” how to return to a seamless movie, music, or game.

Over the course of a neurofeedback training program, your brain learns from this feedback promoting lasting structural changes within your brain. 

 

Neurofeedback has been recognized by the American Academy of Pediatrics as a treatment for removing ADD/ADHD as effectively as medications and it rarely has side-effects.  It has been approved for the treatment of epilepsy and shown to be effective for a wide range of other conditions including anxiety, migraines, and sensitivities that affect people in the autistic spectrum.  It is not more widely known because it was pioneered before neuroplasticity was accepted.   

Mind-Eye Institute

Attention, Dyslexia, Autism, TBI, Neurodegenerative Disease

The Mind-Eye Institute, located north of Chicago is an optometry practice managed by Dr. Deborah Zelensky with an emphasis on neuro-optometric rehabilitation that uniquely measures how well the eyes and ears are coordinated. 

 

The coordination between these two senses is on par to hand-eye coordination and a disconnect between these two senses can be a root cause of learning difficulty or inability to focus in people with brain dysfunction due to developmental issues, injury or disease.  The lack of coordination cannot be determined through traditional vision and hearing tests and requires the use of a Z-Bell Test, which was created by Dr. Zelinsky.  

 

Treatment is through the use of special lenses and filters, which alter sensory filtering by directing light to different retinal cells and brain circuits.  This can influence activity in the brain stem and hypothalamus to better regulate body chemistry and sensory integration.  It may require several phases of progressive treatment to experience the full benefit of the therapy.  You can learn more here: https://mindeye.com/

Cellfield Reading Program

Dyslexia, Auditory Processing, Visual  Processing

The Cellfield reading intervention program, developed by Dimitri Caplygin, is a computer-based program that targets and strengthens the auditory, visual, and auditory-to-visual pathways (neuronal connections) within the brain.  

The program uses a version of sound therapy to strengthen auditory processing capabilities and combined this with unique motion graphics and colored and patched lenses to target visual processing capabilities.  The therapy's uniqueness is in building the link between the two brain functions.   

The therapy, which is accessible through some schools and trained providers typically requires 16 weeks in total to complete, starting with an intensive 2-week phase of daily 1-hour sessions followed by a 10-week phase of weekly 30-45-minute sessions.  A two-week break occurs between the two phases.  You can contact the company to learn more here: https://www.cellfield.com/.