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
to sound |
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".
start to connect with what happens around them, because they
feel less threatened by the sounds that surround them
As a result, they
may have less temper tantrums and show less repetitive
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".
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.
They may also
become more affectionate. A child may come and sit on your lap,
expecting to be held and cuddled.
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.
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.
appreciation for food. less picky in
what they like to eat
|Those who are
picky eaters may start to accept a greater variety of foods,
including foods with different textures.|
start to connect with their voice, their self-image will start
to improve. They know that they have a voice!
They may start to look for contact and respond better to others.
They may start to
They may start to
Less aggressive behavior
They may become less
aggressive towards others and to themselves.
They may start to inflict less injury to themselves and show less repetitive behavior.
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.
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
Reducing hypersensitivity to
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:
their ears with their hands |
themselves from the incoming sounds |
into huge temper tantrums
due to the frustration of
having to deal with the constantly
incoming sounds |
the same words, phrases or sentences |
perhaps as a way to soothe or
stabilize themselves in the face of the barrage of intense and
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
better voice control
growing sense of self
deeper awareness of the
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.
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
people in the U.S. today have some form of
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.
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
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
"). 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
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
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.
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
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
Autism is not
mental retardation. Some autistic people
may be very intelligent ? there is a lot
of evidence that Albert Einstein may have
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
Autism is not an
emotional problem. Autism is a neurological
condition which people are usually born
with. Psychological trauma doesn't cause
Autism is not a psychosis
or lack of reality contact.
People do not choose to be autistic.
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