about Autism about ALFAA
Autism is a Worldwide Epidemic!
Did you know that recent studies have shown there's currently what the media are referring to as a "worldwide autism epidemic".

In fact, based on official figures, one in every 150 children diagnosed as autistic.

But that's just the tip of the iceberg...

1. In terms of developmental disabilities, autism is the third most common (only mental retardation and cerebral palsy rank ahead of it)
2. Families with one autistic child have a 2 to 8 percent chance of having another autistic child
3. Autism occurs more often than childhood cancer or cystic fibrosis
4. Boys are three or four times more likely to be diagnosed with an ASD
5. Mental retardation is present in 75-80% of individuals with autism

Those figures should make EVERYONE take notice...

But there is good news...

1. When autism is detected and treated early disruptive behaviours can be minimized and costs associated with treatments can be reduced by 66%
2. And it's also true that early detection and treatment are two key factors that have been proven to improve the quality of life of a loved one with autism--

-- but sadly too often parents get bogged down in confusion about this disorder, what the best treatments are, and find it impossible to take the necessary steps.

kindly visit our Feedback Form to send us details of families coping up with Autistic Adults so that we could help you patch up with ALFAA...


By a listening therapy
can greatly improve the life of many autistic people, by attenuating the symptoms. It is often used in conjunction with other therapies to alleviate Autistism.

By stimulating the auditory system, and through it, by stimulating the brain, the Tomatis Method has been able to reduce the autistic symptoms to varying degrees.  Each autistic person is different and may respond differently to the program. In some cases we see the first results within a few weeks, whereas in others it may take longer. Also, progress is never a straight line. There are still good days and bad days. But the trend is often upward, especially when you look back over a period of a few months. In many cases we have seen improvements in the following areas: 

bulletDecreased hypersensitivity to sound
 
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They will be able to better deal with noise. As one mother said: "He can now hear the vacuum cleaner or the mixer without losing it".

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They may start to connect with what happens around them, because they feel less threatened by the sounds that surround them

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As a result, they may have less temper tantrums and show less repetitive behavior. 

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They may also start paying more attention. One of the parents said of her autistic daughter: "She is more tuned in. She pays more attention".

 
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Reduced tactile defensiveness

 
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As they become less tactile defensive, their desire to reach out will increase and they may start to interact with others. This makes them more social.

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They may also become more affectionate. A child may come and sit on your lap, expecting to be held and cuddled.

   
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Improved language skills

 
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For autistic children who do not speak, receptive language is likely to improve. They may try to vocalize more and start to babble, experimenting with their voice.

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For autistic children with more developed language skills, the expressive language may improve. They may use longer sentences, and find more appropriate words to describe things. The may also use personal pronouns, like "I" and "You" more correctly, instead of referring to themselves in the third person. Better mastery of language leads to an increased desire to communicate.

   
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Improved appreciation for food. less picky in what they like to eat

 
bulletThose who are picky eaters may start to accept a greater variety of foods, including foods with different textures.
   
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Better self-image

 
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Once they start to connect with their voice, their self-image will start to improve. They know that they have a voice!

   
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Improved social skills

 
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They may start to look for contact and respond better to others.

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They may start to follow directions better.

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They may start to initiate contacts.

   
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Less aggressive behavior

 
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They may become less aggressive towards others and to themselves.

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They may start to inflict less injury to themselves and show less repetitive behavior.

   
bulletBetter eye contact
 
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They may start looking you in the eyes and comprehend what you are saying more readily. "She looks people in the face now", one parent said.

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They may start paying more attention to what they see. As one mother said: "When we're driving, he now looks out of the window. he never did that before."

When autistic people are hypersensitive to sounds, we try to treat this first. When this stumbling block is taken away, we can help them to start listening better. It also opens the way to improve sensory integration.  These two elements, improved listening skills and better sensory integration, are the building blocks to develop their communication skills. 

Reducing hypersensitivity to sounds

People with autism often suffer unbearable pain because of they have multiple sensitivities. Many are hypersensitive to sounds. The intensity of their pain can be excruciating. Some indicators of that hypersensitivity are:

bulletcovering their ears with their hands
 
bullet to protect themselves from the incoming sounds
   
bulletbursting into huge temper tantrums
 
bullet due to the frustration of having to deal with the constantly incoming sounds
   
bullet repeating the same words, phrases or sentences
 
bullet perhaps as a way to soothe or stabilize themselves in the face of the barrage of intense and confusing sounds

So, why are they hypersensitive to sounds? The reason lays in the way we listen. We all listen both with our ears and with our bodies. Our skin and our bones are excellent sound conductors. Our whole body responds to sounds. However, unlike most people, many autistic children (and adults) listen predominantly with their bodies. Sounds picked up by the body go directly to the brain, without being filtered. That means that the irrelevant background noise is not filtered out.  So, many autistic people are continuously assaulted with sounds. When people listen predominantly with their ears, the sounds are filtered to reduce its intensity. Also, they are able to filter out all the background noises, so that they can tune in to what is really important. Many autistic people do not have the ability to filter out background noise and tune in to what really matters.

So, when we work with autistic people that are hypersensitive to sounds, our first goal is to desensitize the bone conduction response, and make their ears to become the main entrance to sounds.  That way, the sounds can be processed in the correct way. We'll do it by having them listen to gated music through a special headphone that is equipped with a vibrator. Through the vibrator they'll listen with their bodies, at the same time as they listen with their ears. The "music" is coming first to the vibrator, and several milliseconds later to the ears. Over time, our clients will adjust to listening primarily with their ears. Desensitizing the bone conduction reduces the hypersensitivity to sounds. It may appear paradoxical to use sounds to desensitize someone who is sensitive to sounds, but it is an efficient, gentle and non-intrusive way to begin to alleviate some of the problems that come with autism.

As all our senses are interrelated, reducing hypersensitivity to sounds often results in reducing other sensitivities, such as tactile defensiveness and aversions of foods that have different textures.

Improving communication

Tomatis discovered that we can only produce a sound, if we hear that sound well. Hence, self-listening is the basis of speaking. So, paradoxically,  it is the ear that controls speech and checks all its parameters: intensity, flow, articulation, etc… Self-listening is thus the basis of communicating with others. 

When we talk, we unconsciously monitor our speech through self-listening. That means that we have to have the ability to zero in on the sound coming from outside (mom talking to me) and/or on the sounds that are coming from within (my own sounds when I talk). As we have seen above, many autistic children tune-out what comes from the outside,  to protect themselves from the bombardment of stimuli that threaten them. They also tune-out what is coming from within, possibly for the same reasons.  They seem as disconnected from the world around them as they are disconnected from themselves.  Communication thus is very difficult.

The Tomatis Program tries to help autistic children to develop self-listening to foster communication.  In that context, the vocal exercises  are key in trying to achieve that goal.  The children are asked to talk into a microphone.  Through a feedback loop, they immediately perceive their voice coming back to their right ear, which is the ear that allows for a faster and more precise processing of language.  The voice not only comes back to the ears but also to the bones,  thanks to a vibrator situated on the skull.  If a child is severely autistic and has no language, we still open the microphone to try to capture his babbling or any vocalization that he or she may produce.

The vocal exercises are often difficult for autistic children, especially at the beginning.  Often, they are afraid of their own voice and immediately become silent. It takes gentle prodding to help them overcome gradually their anxiety.  Their reaction is easily understandable: first, this is new, and everything new brings fear. Second, it is the first time that they “listen” to their own voice.  Up till now, they probably didn’t connect themselves  with their voice, because that requires having a sense of self, and a perception of one's body, both of which are weak in most autistic children.

The bone vibration is key to developing a better perception of the body, the basis for the self to develop.  We have often observed autistic children who try to swallow the microphone during the vocal exercises.  It provides them with an intense vibration that reverberates throughout their body.  It gives them an opportunity to “feel” their body.  Some enjoys the experience tremendously, but a normal adult could not stand the intensity of the bone vibration that it generates.  This phenomenon in itself is very normal: the simple fact of speaking creates vibrations throughout our body, but we are most of the time unaware and undisturbed by it.  In his book on opera-singing, (L’Oreille et la Voix, not published in English), Tomatis explains in details how singers must be able to control their bodies all the way down to the smallest proprioceptive sensation, to produce a sound of perfect quality  Singer, he insists, need to learn to play of their body as if it were an instrument. Likewise,  autistic child have to learn to use their body as an instrument to initiate language.  The vocal exercises we do, make it possible for them to “feel” their body, to build their ability to produce sounds, and this may lead to language.  By giving them the ability to produce sounds in a controlled way, we open the way for them to develop their sense of self.  As we know it well, “finding one's voice” is finding oneself.

» expanded articulation of words

» increased expressive language

» more developed receptive language

» more sharpened listening skills

» better voice control

» growing sense of self develops

» deeper awareness of the whole body 

It is clear that reducing hypersensitivity and regulating sensory-integration are key steps in helping reconnect the autistic child or person to their families and their environment, allowing them to move outside of their protective shells. While the Tomatis Listening Program primarily focuses on listening and audio vocal exercises, other senses are changing simultaneously.

Autism?
What is it...?


Autism is a developmental disability of the brain, much like dyslexia, mental retardation, or attention deficit disorder. Autism is not a form of mental retardation, and though many autistic people appear to function as retarded, they are frequently quite intelligent. According to the Autism Society of America, "autism...occur[s] in approximately 15 of every 10,000 individuals...[and]...nearly 400,000 people in the U.S. today have some form of autism."1

The word autism may actually refer to several similar disabilities, including Autistic Disorder, Aspergers Syndrome, and "Atypical" Autism (a type of Pervasive Developmental Disorder, not otherwise specified). Though there are some differences between these conditions, they are quite similar, and those who have them experience many of the same difficulties in life.

What is autism like for those who have it?

The symptoms of autism can vary widely from one individual to the next. Autism is referred to as a spectrum disorder because it ranges in severity across a wide range of conditions, like the colors of a rainbow. In additions, some people may be affected more by one symptom, while others may be affected more strongly by a different symptom. Also, some of the symptoms may have variable manifestations.

Sensory Processing

Autistic people tend to have unusual sensory experiences. These experiences may involve a sense being too sensitive, less sensitive than normal, and/or difficulty interpreting a sense ("agnosia"). These experiences do not involve hallucinations; autistic people have sensory experience based on real experiences, like normal people, but the experience may feel or sound different, or the autistic person may have difficulty interpreting the experience. No two autistic people appear to have the exact same pattern of sensory problems.

It is not uncommon, for example, for an autistic person to avoid being touched. This is usually because of a heightened sense of touch ? a gentle touch to most people may hurt or shock some autistic people. Others may experience confusion, due to difficulty interpreting the sensation or insufficient sensation reaching the brain to interpret. Another, not uncommon pattern is to have the strength of the sensation inverse from that of the stimulation, so that a gentle touch may feel like an electric shock, but firm contact may not be a problem. Some autistic people may be insensitive to pain, and fail to notice injuries.

Hearing may also be heightened, so that noises that don't bother others may hurt an autistic person's ears. Many autistic people have trouble making out what is said to them, as they have trouble processing sound.

Vision may also be affected. Some autistic people are prosopagnostic ("face-blind"), that is, have trouble recognizing people. This means that learning to recognize someone is hard, recognition may be slow, faces tend to be analyzed rather than recognized automatically, and many normal effects of seeing a person may be absent. The exact effects and severity may vary between people. Other autistic people may have their eyes hurt by bright light or certain flickering or vibrating frequencies.

One common effect of these heightened senses, is that autistic people are vulnerable to sensory overload with continued low-level bombardment. This may also result from too much emotional or social stimulation. Autistic people may become overloaded in situation that would not bother (or might even entertain) a normal person. When overloaded, autistic people have trouble concentrating, may feel tired or confused, and some may experience physical pain. Too much overload may lead to tantrums or emotional outburst. Another result of too much overload may be "shutdown," in which the person looses some or all of the person's normal functioning. Shutdown may feel different to different people, but is extremely unpleasant.

Misunderstanding

Autistic people have a great deal of trouble understanding things in the social environment. This includes both understanding of social cues and conventions, and understanding language. (The primary difference between Autistic Disorder and Aspergers Syndrome is that those with Aspergers are defined to have less severe communication problems and no speech delays.)

One aspect of autism is that it is like being in perpetual culture shock, no matter where the autistic person goes or how long the autistic person stays. They don't understand many of the basic social assumptions that others take for granted (often without even being consciously aware of them). In many situations, it's like being dropped into the middle of an unfamiliar play, and being the only one there who doesn't know the script, you're role, or even what play you're in! What's going on? What should I do? Why is X crying, Y happy, and Z sneaking around grumbling? Life ? especially social life ? can be very, very confusing! Autistic people generally don't know how to handle innuendoes, either.

Autistic people lack normal non-verbal communication and body language, and may thus seem more literal minded or unemotional than they actually are.

Autistic people also have trouble with verbal communication. This usually involves what is called a semantic-pragmatic component. This means that an autistic person may take a statement or question in a very literal or unusual way; like the comic character Amelia Bedelia2 from Peggy Parish's children's book series. This could include things like interpreting "I'd like coffee with my cereal" to mean cereal with coffee in it2. Another example could be innocently answering "what do you do when you get cut" with "bleed," instead of describing what should be done about the cut3.

Many autistic people have other communication difficulties, such as trouble remembering vocabulary, or trouble pronouncing words. Some may have Apraxia of Speech, meaning difficulty coordinating speech movements. Others have characteristics of speech disorders called aphasias. Some autistic people may be mute, or may occasionally lose the ability to speak. Some may have odd pronunciation, inflection, or vocal qualities. Many autistic people may pause and need extra time to process verbal comments or questions, and to formulate replies. Repeating things that have been heard (echolalia), is not uncommon, nor is repeating ones own words.

Attention

Autistic people have trouble handling multiple stimuli. The problem is that they have very narrowly focused attention, and can't keep up with more than one thing at a time. Most people have a mind like a flashlight, with an area of high focus, and a larger area of partial awareness; the autistic mind is more like a laser-pointer, that highlights only a single small dot. Also, shifting attention is a relatively slow process, and involves a sort of pause or moment of delay. While Attention Deficit Disorder is primarily a disorder of inconsistent (often short) attention span, autism involves other dimensions of attention call selectivity and shifting speed, specifically, too narrow of a focus and difficulty and slowness shifting foci. (Though many autistic people also have symptoms of ADD as well, not all do.) One result of this is that autistic people tend to not see things as connected.

What are Autistic People Like?

There is great deal of variety among autistic people. Some autistic people may never learn to talk and may not be able work or to live independently. Others may do well in special supportive environments, working in sheltered setting. Still others are be totally independent and function fairly well. The last, or "high-functioning," group is often not recognized. However, these do exist, and people need to recognize and understand the difficulties they face, and their unique ways of thinking, doing things, and experiencing the world.

Most autistic people seem unusually "reactive," and reactive to unusual things. An autistic person who seems to take major emergencies in stride may become upset over any surprise happening, even a minor one (like dropping pencil). Autistic people may often seem unemotional, but can be very emotional when something is important to them. Many are much more candid and expressive with their emotions than normal people.

Autistic people tend to dislike, or at least be uninterested in, change. Many have strong attachments to objects, places, or routines, and become very upset if forced to abandon these things. Something that seems silly to others may be very important to an autistic person.

Most autistic people have a few very intense interests, that may seem almost obsessive. These could be as ordinary as sports, as technical as neurology, or as odd as memorizing train schedules. Autistic people take their special interests very seriously.

Autistic people are often aloof, and may be seen as extremely shy. However, while some may be very socially anxious, others are not anxious about people, but either uninterested, or are unaware of how to interact with or approach others. Some may not notice people, because of being absorbed by other things. Some are very interested in getting to know others, some may not care, and other may actively avoid social contact. However, it is a mistake to assume autistic people lack affection; some can be very affectionate toward those they know and care about. The lack of normal body language may make them seem more distant or unemotional than they actually are.

Autistic people may do strange things, like rocking back-and-forth, flapping their hands in front of their eyes, humming, talking to themselves, spinning in circles, or repeating things. Some of this is just for fun, or out of excitement or distress. Sometimes, strange behaviors are to compensate with sensory problems. The repetitiveness is related to the natural repetitiveness and narrow focus of the autistic mind. Talking to oneself or giggling for no apparent reason is often the result of intense daydreaming or remembering, but may sometimes result from disregulated emotion, or be a form of echolalia. (Some ? estimated 25% ? also suffer from epileptic seizures of various kinds, some of which may cause strange behavior.) These things are harmless, and do not result from total disorientation or hallucinating. Some may injure themselves with such behavior, but it should not be assumed that such behavior is self-injurious.

Some Things Autism is Not

  1. Autism is not mental retardation. Some autistic people may be very intelligent ? there is a lot of evidence that Albert Einstein may have been autistic.

  2. Autism is not "savant" syndrome. Some autistic people are "savants," (e.g., instant calculator, etc.) but most are not. Other autistic people are "gifted," however, and have high "general" intelligence. Many autistic people have normal intelligence, and some may be retarded.

  3. Autism is not an emotional problem. Autism is a neurological condition which people are usually born with. Psychological trauma doesn't cause it.

  4. Autism is not a psychosis or lack of reality contact.

  5. People do not choose to be autistic.

  6. Autism is not "a fate worse than death." Autistic people have some disadvantages, but some live very happy and rewarding lives. Many autistic people wouldn't want to be "cured," as this would be like erasing them and replacing them with different people.