Dyslexia, Auditory Processing and AIT

In the 1970’s Albert Galaburda, M.D., researcher at Harvard University, did autopsies on brains of people who had been diagnosed with dyslexia and compared them with brains of people who had no learning disabilities.

He learned that people with dylexia had nests of abnormal cells scattered through auditory areas in the brains of dyslexics. Such “ectopic” cells did not exist in people who were not learning disabled.

Most people with auditory processing disorders usually have trouble processing incoming auditory information, hearing amidst background noise or following verbal instructions. Although routine tests may show that hearing is normal.

In the mid 70’s, an audiologist called Jack Willeford, at Colorado State University, noticed that some children with learning disabilities seemed to have the same kind of comprehension problems experienced by people with brain lesions in the auditory system. These children were having trouble learning, reading, spelling and hearing when there was background noise- yet they had normal audiograms. They were doing great in math and science, but couldn’t follow multi-step directions and misinterpreted messages.

Willeford discovered what Albert Galaburda, M.D. Had discovered that the brain’s auditory regions play a role in CAPD too. – Excerpt taken from Dartmouth Medicine, Scrambled Sounds by Laura Stephenson Carter.

In our story today, we talk about the role AIT played in an 8 year old boy named A. who was diagnosed with mild dyslexia who recently underwent AIT.

A. and his parents live abroad. A.’s main language is English. He is currently homeschooled. He previously did cognitive therapy to address his auditory memory. This helped him to understand words.

A.’s mother is well read and highly educated, she spent much time researching A.’s case only to discover that her son fit the profile of children who suffer from auditory processing disorders.

A.’s mom felt that A. would benefit from AIT therapy and this is their story.

A letter from A. ‘s mom prior to AIT:

Pasensya na, it took me so long to put this together.
His official diagnosis is mild dyslexia as of 4.5 yrs old. He is very verbal and can be quite talkative when it’s about things that he likes. However, he picks up on social cues quite slowly such that someone may not be interested in what he is talking about but he could go on and on. And this is usually about a TV show or about animals and rarely about himself or his experiences. When you ask him how school went or how a certain class went, he will just say ‘good’ and won’t offer too much details. I went back to basic with phonics with him a few months ago and that seemed to jump start his reading. Whereas during the first part of the year, he preferred being read to and would say that he gets tired of reading, he became more willing to pick up a book to read. Fortunately, he was exposed to books way, way back so it’s not the books that he dislikes but the words in them. Give him a book with good pictures and he will spend lots of time on it. He is a very visual person. His auditory memory may not be that large especially about 2 years back but his visual memory is quite advanced. His therapy is centered on the Feurstein method where the approach is cognitive. His therapist uses his strength which is visual, to strengthen his weakness.

I think if someone would evaluate him now, everything would appear mild but of course put them together and common sense learning can be challenging. 

He doesn’t usually cover his ears except for balloons. He likes playing with balloons but he doesn’t like it when someone plays rough with it because he’s scared it might pop. In a recent party, he was covering his ears in anticipation of popping balloons. He used to dislike hand dryers too but lately he has overcome that and seems to understand that it can help him dry his hands.

It takes long for him to fall asleep too. Fortunately, remaining asleep is not an issue. Sometimes he can be sleepy but a slight sound can keep him awake a little longer. 

He is scared to be alone especially when it gets dark outside. We don’t have help here in Malaysia so it’s usually just the 3 of us (me, A. and his younger sister) from the afternoon until bedtime rituals. When it’s time for his sister’s bath, I have to keep the door ajar because he gets scared when it’s closed. That’s an improvement since a few months back, he would have to stay inside the bathroom with us.

Sometimes, he doesn’t respond but when I ask him if he heard me, he would repeat what I just said. i’m not sure if there’s a slight delay at times. I think it’s not consistent. It would be a challenge to demonstrate something to him. That’s one reason why I think there is something not quite in sync between his visual and hearing senses.

There are common words that he uses and always reads which he hasn’t really understood. His therapy right now is focused on that. Phrases such as ‘just now’, some prepositions, references to time, etc and their meanings are quite a challenge to him.

He hasn’t picked up on Filipino. When he was 18 months, he only had a few words. The pedia asked me to list them down and count them. By 21 months, it was way more than a 100 so the pedia said he’s ok. Pero di mo siya makakausap. No real conversation, just a question -answer exchange. He went to a play school by 2.5 years old. He never talks about his day even when I ask him. We can talk about things in his books, toys that’s all. It was barely a month before his 3rd birthday when I noticed that he actually told me about his experience in a jungle gym. When he was in the play school from 2.5 years old, learning that they used straight English, I just switched to English at home too. Dati, I wanted to expose him to both languages but I felt that his ability to communicate in at least one language was more important for me so that’s why I focused on English.

He doesn’t pick up on cues quite well. He can’t seem to tell pag naiilang na yung classmate or potential playmate niya kaya minsan parang ayaw na nung kalaro niya. 

He learns a lot from TV shows and videos but show him a picture and he has a hard time describing what it is about. It seems his internal language is poor too. 

Anyway, it’s quite hard to pinpoint anything specific about A. But as someone who is with him most of the time, I know there is something amiss. I realize that there is no perfect therapy for any child but I’m hoping that AIT can help him a bit.

Oh I remember you posted a link on auditory processing disorder. He fits the description quite well. 

During the 1st assessment , he underwent an audiogram, where he showed poor tolerance to the tightness of the headphones. He would complain that it’s itchy, tight, or his ears are flat. He would fidget every now and then and would answer inappropriately at times. He was easily frustrated to tears and needs frequent breaks in order to continue the testing.

Mom’s Expectations on AIT were the following:

I hope to see improvements in response to verbal instruction.

Become less anxious about unknown sounds her heras.

More focused in his school work, less distracted by noise.

More settled, calm and relaxed.

Get a better understanding of the things around him, be able to gauge if it is safe or dangerous.

Be able to relate better with his peers.

Hopefully pick up on Tagalog better.

We explained to A. ‘s mom that changes in AIT usually come between the 3rd to 9 th month but there are children who also respond within the first 10 days.

We interviewed A.’s mom on the last day of AIT to get insights on what she had observed.

Observations:

After the trial sessions, A.’s voice seemed more regulated than before. Usually A.’s mom would have to remind him so often like 3 or 4 times in a conversation. Now, we only have to remind him once.

Day 1

A. is fidgety, whiny, and prone to sudden movements during the session. He would get frustrated when asked to stay put or stay still. A. doesn’t like the music.

A’s was able to actually relax before going to sleep. Usually it takes him more than 30 minutes to settle down prior to sleeping even if he’s tired. Surprisingly it didn’t take to long for him to sleep.

Day 2

A. is still whiny and fidgety. He would often complain that “it’s so long” or “ I can’t do this, it ‘s too long”. Mom noted that A. was again able to relax before going to sleep.

Day 3

A. surprised Mom today by being able to say “K., pwede na yung elevator.” He sounded like a regular Filipino kid. Normally, he has issues with sound discrimination. Filipino language is a challenge to him as it is only spoken at home. Many words are unfamiliar and A. has a tendency to mispronounce the words. “Bungi” would be “Bungik”. A. usually speaks with a certain accent. From that day on, Mom noticed that he became better at speaking the Filipino language.

Mom tested his auditory memory by quoting a Bible verse for A. to repeat. It would usually take around 2 to 3 repetitions from Mom and 2 to 3 repeated tries from A. to get it right. This time, he was able to repeat the Bible verse correctly after only one try.

Day 4

A. is less whiny. He was able to talk calmly and express how his ears felt. He would also ask for permission. This is quite a change from the 1st few days. On the 2nd session, A. was able to totally relax and quiet down for the 1st time.

Mom noticed that A. responds faster to instructions.

After the session, A. wants to play a game on his Ipod. A. usually gets upset when he can’t do something on the apps. Mom explained that “ A. , you can’t do that with the apps because that’s how the game was made.” He surprised Mom by accepting her explanation without any further complaints and tantrums and just saying “ Oh.”

Mom also noticed a further improvement in terms of A.’s observation skills and understanding of body language. A. usually had to be prompted with BOTH visual gestures and a request . This time, A. surprised Mom by responding immediately to a gesture that Mom made ( Mom was trying to get something) and giving the item automatically (without any verbal prompting).

A. often speaks in not- so- grammatically correct English. Mom usually has to correct how he phrases his sentences, since A. doesn’t really self-correct. Today, A. said “ Drop off them. ”  He was able to immediately realize his mistake and corrected himself automatically by saying “ Drop them off.”

Day 5.

While driving in the car, Grandpa started a tirade against other people’s driving habits, A. would normally ignore conversations between Mom and Grandpa. A. surprised them both by suddenly saying “Papa, that’s impolite.” Mom and Grandpa were very much at a loss for words that moment. They suddenly realized that A. was listening to their conversations all along.

It was also the first time that A. wasn’t too scared of the dark or being alone. While Mom and K. were playing outside, A. would stay in his room. He would normally ask one of his grandparents to ” stay with him just to keep him company since he often would refuse to be alone”.

Tonight, he was able to stay by himself in the room, and even his Grandpa started wondering why A. wasn’t calling him to keep him company.

Day 6

A. has limited self help skills- Mom usually has to walk him through the steps. He can blow his nose, but he usually makes a mess out of cleaning up with tissue as A. has difficulty following 3 to 4 step instructions sometimes.

Mom noticed that today, A. was able to blow his nose and clean up precisely the way she taught him to. His attempts at following instructions are much better now than before.

Day 7

A. is very cranky, restless and easily irritated. Keeps trying to adjust his headphones and how he would position himself on the couch. We noticed that he was more concerned about how much time had passed. He would often ask about the time.

Day 8 to Day 9

A. is still cranky, restless and easily irritated. He complains about how long the session is. The only difference now is that and he would try to estimate how much time had passed.

Day 10

A. was very behaved on the last day. He actually told his mom that “ he enjoyed the music.” He drew a face and showed straighter and stronger lines. Muscle control is better as seen in his artwork. Concepts and ideas in drawing also seem much improved. A. has a slight difficulty when it comes to drawing.

We also noticed better attention and focus. A test that would normally take us an hour, now only took 30 minutes to finish. A. exhibits less tactile sensitivity. He shows an improvement in concentration and waiting skills.

Image

On the Left side Post AIT Drawings, on the Right Side, Pre AIT Drawings.

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