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Kara Tavolacci, OT- New York29 Jan 2013
My introduction to Tomatis was in 2001. I was attending graduate school for Occupational Therapy, at NYU and looking for part-time work; a job posting for a listening trainer at a Tomatis center piqued my interest even though I didn't know what a "listening trainer" or the "Tomatis" program was.
I discussed the job posting with my roommate later that day and was surprised to discover that she was quite familiar with the program and assured me that it was a great job and that I would learn a lot. After applying, I was immediately hired and began placing what then seemed like strange headphones on children with varying diagnoses. The listening trainer's job was to, first and foremost, make sure the children kept their headphones on for the two-hour period. As well, and importantly, the trainer must try to engage the child while (s) he is listening, which could prove quite challenging if the child was on the autism spectrum.
But wouldn't you know these kids began to change. What I initially noticed was improved eye contact, more vocalizations, and calmer behavior. Children who had previously been exhibiting some resistance with the headphones were now seeking them out. And I could not deny that it was easier to engage these children. The significance of these changes became more apparent as I began to learn more about the method and more about Occupational Therapy. The children seemed to be tuning into the world more. Parents reported that their child seemed more aware, calmer, were sleeping better, eating more. Occasionally a parent would report successful potty training. All from listening to this Tomatis stuff.
I continued to work at the Tomatis center throughout my graduate school career. In order to get clinical experience, I began in 2004 working in a pediatric sensory clinic and a special needs preschool. It was a good learning experience and I saw some changes, but I was not getting those "wow" changes I had witnessed at the Tomatis center. Ultimately I felt that OT without the Tomatis piece was not getting at the root of the child's issues. I eventually phased out my work at both the sensory clinic and preschool and came on board full time at the Tomatis center and was fully trained to the Tomatis Method.
Many of the children who were coming at our center were on Autism spectrum from the severely affected to the mild cases. We also had some children with Cerebral Palsy, seizure disorders, learning disabilities, ADHD, ADD etc. In my former OT work, I would see changes as I've mentioned but at a slower rate than the Tomatis.
I don't believe you can 'make' a child want to engage with you. Yes, you can drill social skills by repeating phrases like "look at me" but it's not coming from within the child: it's rote and, therefore, meaningless. That's what Tomatis seems to be changing: I've witnessed autistic children look at me more, communicating more and, importantly becoming more aware of their surroundings. One young boy, who was being treated by an OT who utilized a Floor Time approach, was aware of his therapist and sometimes others in the gym but clearly not completely tuned into his environment. He had been receiving OT for 2 ½ months before starting the Tomatis program. After his first 15 days of listening with Tomatis he was engaged in play with his therapist in a way he had not been previously. Upon hearing someone walk into the gym he immediately oriented, looking in the direction the sound had come from.
I am so happy to have found this tool to work with and be able to offer today this service to much more people through Solisten, the home based solution from Tomatis.
TAVOLACCI Kara - TAVOLACCI Kara