Further evidence for the possible value of noise for children with ADHD is presented by Abikoff et al. (1996). These researchers evaluated the effect that extra-task auditory stimulation had on academic task performance of children with ADHD. This was executed by studying both children with ADHD and normal students during the performance of arithmetic tasks during three different auditory stimulus conditions: high stimulation (music), low stimulation (speech) and no stimulation (silence). The findings indicated that the normal subjects performed similarly under all three conditions, while the ADHD subjects performance was significantly better under the music condition that the silence or speech conditions. This information could prove to be valuable for teachers in the classroom environment. The presence of music in the classroom during tasks such as arithmetic might facilitate the performance of students with ADHD. Since normal students performed equally well under all auditory conditions, the presence of music would not impede their performance at all.
Although the use of stimulant medications is generally used for the treatment of ADHD, other alternative, complementary treatments may be used to further improve the performance of children with this disability. There are several reasons why parents of children with ADHD may seek therapies other than drugs for treatment of the disorder. The pursuit of alternative treatments reflects the heterogeneity and complexity of ADHD (Baumgaertel, 1999). Music therapy has received attention from researchers as an effective therapy for children with ADHD. For instance, the use of auditory stimulation with individualized music has been shown to improve situational performance of children with ADHD during cognitive tasks (Baumgaertel, 1999). Could music therapy prove to be a valuable tool for teachers in the classroom with students that have ADHD?
Rickson (2006) examined the effects that instructional and improvisational models of music therapy have on the motor impulsivity of adolescents who have ADHD. The results of the study indicated that the instructional model of music therapy contributed to a reduction of restless and impulsive behaviors displayed by students with ADHD in the classroom. Therefore, based on these findings, teachers may find it valuable to include forms of music therapy through instructional models to improve performance of students with ADHD in several developmental areas including motor responses and cognitive tasks.
Jackson (2003) also investigated the use of music therapy with children who have ADHD. This researcher conducted a survey with the purpose of ascertaining exactly what music therapy methods are being used with children diagnosed with ADHD, how effective this treatment is, and the role that music therapy has in relation to other types of therapy.
Findings indicated that several different types of music therapy are used in the treatment of ADHD, and multiple types of goals are addressed through this type of treatment. Furthermore, the outcome of treatment using music therapy is generally perceived to be favorable for children with ADHD. Music therapy is an accessible option as well, and most referrals for treatment come from parents and teachers. Jackson (2003) does acknowledge that the vast majority of children with ADHD who receive music therapy are also on medication, and that his is in most cases necessary for successful treatment of this disorder.
Incorporating music into the classroom has been shown to be one possible way that teachers can improve the performance of students with ADHD through the use of auditory stimulation. Another auditory modality that may be an option is auditory integration training, or AIT. According to Schonbeck (2000), AIT is a specific type of auditory or music therapy rooted in the work of two French otolaryngologists Dr. Alfred Tomatis and Dr. Guy Berard. The premise on which this therapeutic method is based is that distortion in how auditory stimuli are heard contributes greatly to behavioral and learning disorders in children, such as ADHD. Essentially, training individuals with ADHD to listen in a particular way can stimulate cortical and central organization.
Central auditory processing (CAP) is the domain in which auditory integration is merely a facet. Schonbeck (2000) describes CAP how we process and integrate the auditory stimuli that we hear. Essentially, it may be understood as how we listen to what we hear, or how we form information from raw sensory data. Furthermore, CAP is the actual perception of sound and everything we do with sound stimuli, including attending to sound, remembering auditory stimuli, retaining the information in the long and short terms, the ability to selectively listen to sound, and to identify the location of sounds.
The treatments proposed by these two French therapies have similarities in their basis, but differ somewhat in their execution. The auditory integration training put forth by Berard consists of twenty half-hour sessions in which individuals listen to musical sounds through a stereophonic system using earphones. The music is random and contains filtered frequencies. The sound waves that travel through the earphones and into the individuals' ears exercise structures in the middle ear through vibration. Sessions are generally performed twice a day for 10 days.
The method employed by Tomatis utilizes an invention of his called the Electronic Ear. Through the operation of a series of filters, this device acts to re-establish right ear dominance in hearing. Schonbeck (2000) states that Tomatis' work is based in the following principles:
The most important purpose of the ear is to adapt sound wave into signals that charge the brain.
Sound is conducted via both air and bone. It can be considered something that nourishes the nervous system, either stimulating or destimulating it.
Just as seeing is not the same as looking, hearing is not the same as listening. Hearing is passive. Listening is active.
A person's ability to listen affects all language development for that person. This process influences every aspect of self-image and social development.
The capacity to listen can be changed or improved through auditory stimulation using musical and vocal sounds at high frequencies.
Communication begins in the womb. As early as the beginning of the second trimester, fetuses can hear sounds. These sounds literally cause the brain and nervous system of the baby to develop.
According to Schonbeck (2000), there are certain defects in central auditory processing are associated with the development of learning disorders in children, including ADHD. These defects include phonetic decoding, Tolerance-fading memory, response delays and difficulties with phonics, and problems with auditory organization. Auditory integration training addresses these problems through the implementation of the therapies mentioned above. One key factor in the success of these treatments is the universal presence of plasticity, or the ability that the brain has to physically change its connections and structuring through the learning process. This means that auditory integration training actually changes the physiological structures responsible for the development of learning structures in the brains of children with ADHD. As knowledge of the brain and its functions increases, this type of training will most likely only develop further and will become more accessible in the future. Practitioners of AIT may prove to be a valuable resource for teachers who must instruct students with ADHD.
Teachers play a powerful role in the lives of young people. When children are faced with learning challenges such as ADHD, the classroom may be a stressful environment for everyone involved, including the child themselves, the teacher, other students and parents. There are several therapeutic modalities incorporating auditory stimuli that teachers can use that have proven to be successful in improving the performance of children with ADHD. Whether it is something subtle like background music during tasks requiring sustained attention, or a referral to a focused, intense treatment such as auditory integration training, auditory-based methods work due to the fact that the way children with ADHD process auditory information is distinctly different than that of children without this disability. Above all, awareness of the benefits of treatments involving auditory stimuli is of the utmost importance for both teachers and parents since ADHD affects not only academic success but general well-being as well.
Abikoff, H., Courtney, M.E., Szeibel P.J., Koplewicz, H.S. (1996). The effects of auditory stimulation on the arithmetic performance of children with ADHD and nondisabled children. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 29(3), 238-46.
Baumgaertal, A. (1999). Alternative and controversial treatments for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Pediatric Clinics of North America, 46(5), 977-92.
Gray, L.C., Breier, J.I., Foorman, B.R., Fletcher, J.M. (2002). Continuum of impulsiveness caused by auditory masking. International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology, 66(3), 265-72.
Jackson, N.A. (2003). A survey of music therapy methods and their role in the treatment of early elementary school children with ADHD. Journal of Music Therapy, 40(4), 302-23.
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