there is a wide array of learning difficulties and between 4 and 6% of children suffer from them.
These difficulties are not due to a lack of intelligence, or unfavorable socioeconomic circumstances, or to a psychoaffective problem. Many learning difficulties have a neurobiological origin because of prenatal developmental problems. Such conditions include dyslexia (reading difficulties), dysorthographia (the relation of sounds to written letters), dyspraxia (the use and coordination of learned gestures) dysphasia (for spoken language) and dyscalculia (concerning mathematical functions and numbers).
The Tomatis® Method utilizes the natural plasticity of the neural circuits involved in the decoding and analysis of sounds, balance and coordination, to retrain the brain. The Tomatis® Method can help children develop compensatory strategies to deal with and manage their learning difficulties and language disorders. The Tomatis® Method does not eliminate these issues but helps the person with these problems manage them more effectively.
Attention is the capacity to select and maintain awareness of an exterior event or a thought. It corresponds to the general waking state and to vigilance, which lets the nervous system be receptive to any form of information that comes to mind. Attention disorders affect children and adults who cannot sufficiently concentrate on work to be done over long periods, even if this work requires only a minimum of intellectual effort or has a routine or familiar character to it (such as revising or recopying). A specific modality of attention is the capacity to divide one’s attention among several sources of information or tasks to be done. A deficiency in this attentional modality is not only very costly in a cognitive sense, but is also a source of difficulty and even considerable suffering for a child in a school setting.
Beyond its general action of cerebral stimulation (i.e., cortical charging), the Tomatis® Method can also have a very positive action on selective attention. In effect, the Tomatis® procedure is based on the electronic gating that brings about a perceptual sound contrast meant to constantly surprise the brain so that it stays awake and attentive The goal is to help the brain develop automatic mechanisms for detecting changes, which will consequently reinforce selective attention.
While it is easy to understand the importance of exercise for the upkeep of the body, we do not always realize that exercise is also important for our brain. A brain stimulated with sensory messages both energizes and relaxes us. Since the ear is the main channel for the transmission of sensory messages from the human body, it plays a key role in all human functions. This stimulation may be impaired when the brain triggers a mechanism of inhibition or protection, which may occur following an isolated traumatic event known as emotional shock. The brain also tends to protect itself progressively when the external environment is perceived as aggressive. This may be true for people who are facing a reorganization of their routine, an increase of responsibility, the loss of familiar references, and social pressure.
The Tomatis® Method acts on the limbic system in the medial part of the brain, to which the auditory system is linked. Among other things, this part of the brain is responsible for the mechanisms of emotion, memory, and learning. Moreover, an organ in the middle ear known as the cochlea plays the role of a cortical charger. By acting on the limbic system and prefrontal cortex, the Tomatis® Method intervenes in the regulation of emotional disorders related to depression and anxiety. And it will also act effectively on the regulation of stress.
A deeply engrained listening distortion can even lead to the loss of desire to listen, which in turn will diminish the desire to communicate, either because the person suffering from this distortion lacks confidence, or simply “gives up” trying to communicate, resulting in difficulties communicating effectively.
Let’s recall that having well-tuned listening is not necessarily a consequence of having good hearing. Listening is characterized both by a real intention to communicate and by the quality of perception and of interpretation of the received sound message. Well-tuned listening is therefore not a function of how well we hear or of our ear’s sensitivity, but rather of how well we process what we hear, that is, of the quality of exploitation of our hearing. Even though the phrase “communication disorders” has an undeniably general character, and although difficulties with communication may have diverse and varied causes, it is nevertheless the case that a considerable number of communication problems originate in known distortions of the listening function.
Difficulties in communication may take on a variety of different forms. For example, they may show up as an inability to perceive sounds in the environment without feeling aggressed by them: For some people with a communication disorder, the honking of a car horn, the slamming of a door, the noisy ambiance of a restaurant, and even the familiar voices of co-workers, parents or friends may be perceived as aggressive …. Others suffering from different communication disorders find it difficult, even impossible, to use their voice as a true tool of communication, due to a lack of mastery over its different melodic components—intonation, inflection, rhythm, intensity, etc.—and these peoples’ voices may consequently be perceived as aggressive, cold, or void of any power of expression by another interlocutor.
By specifically working on the reception and emission of sound, the Tomatis® Method acts effectively on communication.
Psychomotor difficulties concern a delay in the acquisition, coordination, and execution of gestures that are not learned culturally or through an explicit education, but are instead acquired “naturally” over time (for example, walking, running, jumping, tapping out a rhythm with the foot or with the fingers). These are different from gestures related to dyspraxia, which are learned culturally (for example, eating with dinnerware).
Psychomotor disorders therefore concern the integration of gestures having a universal character into an individual bodily framework. For example, children who experience these difficulties may be unable to coordinate their arms and legs when they swim, may run in a disordered manner, may have difficulty balancing on one foot or going down stairs, etc. Disorders that affect proper coordination are also regularly correlated with dyslexia, albeit to differing degrees.
The Ear is not merely a sensory organ that captures sounds. It also plays an important role in motor function thanks to an internal organ known as the vestibule. The role of the vestibule is to manage the sense of balance. By means of its direct action on the vestibule, the Tomatis® Method acts directly on the regulation of muscular tone and thus on verticality, but also on the difficulties of laterality. Moreover, in conjunction with several other parts of the brain, the vestibular system plays an important role in the mechanisms controlling coordination and rhythm. As a result, the Tomatis® Method can effectively intervene on difficulties with rhythm and of coordination.
Finally, in conjunction with the cerebral cortex, the vestibule is highly involved in the capacity of spatial navigation and in the formation of the body schema. This is why Tomatis® Method’s fields of application also include difficulties of spatialization and of the body schema.
These are severe difficulties manifesting early in childhood development, and are characterized by delays in and alterations of the development of the capacities for social interaction, cognition, and communication.
The neural circuits linking the ear to the brain contain specific neurons (both motor and sensory) called « mirror neurons » that play an important role in the construction of social cognition, that is, the ensemble of the processes that allow you to attribute intentions and ideas to someone, and even to understand another person’s emotional state.
By acting on these neural circuits, the Tomatis® Method proposes to improve both the capacity to communicate and the qualty of our relational abilities.
The Tomatis® Method has demonstrated its effectiveness in helping people who suffer from autism and associated behavioral disorders (for example, Asperger’s syndrome). Numerous approaches are possible to help people presenting these disorders. The Method is not exclusive in this regard.
Although the importance of movement for the upkeep of the body has been recognized, we don’t always realize that it is just as important for the well-being of the brain. The brain is stimulated when it is sent sensory messages, and in turn, it both energizes and relaxes us. Because the ear is the human body’s most important channel for sensory messages, we can easily understand why its role is likewise very important.
This stimulation may be deficient when the brain triggers a protective mechanism, which may happen after a single traumatic event known as an emotional shock. The brain also tends to protect itself progressively when it perceives the external environment as aggressive. This may be the case with people whose rhythm of life has been suddenly disrupted and reorganized, or who face a sudden increase of responsibility, a loss of bearings, or social pressure.
The human ear ensures a function of “cortical charging.” It needs to be stimulated in order to energize the brain and the body. Sound is therefore necessary for our personal growth. The richer the sound is in harmonic highs, the more effective it is. Sounds rich in harmonic highs stimulate a vast neural network known as the “reticular formation” which controls the overall level of cerebral activity. The energizing action of the Tomatis® Method is complemented by a relaxing effect on the physical-bodily level, which has positive effects on the regulation of anxiety and stress.
One of the historical areas of application for the Tomatis® Method concerns the improvement of musicality and of the speaking or singing voice. In effect, thanks to its direct action on the cerebral mechanisms that link perception and action, the fundamental principle of the Tomatis® Method is that any modification of the mechanisms concerning the reception and analysis of a sound message will have consequences on the reproduction of that message, be it spoken, sung, or mediated by a musical instrument.
Moreover, good quality vocalization does not merely require a well-tuned listening of an external sound message, but also and above all a well-tuned self-listening, that is, a well-honed capacity to use one’s own voice as a sound source to be analyzed and properly controlled in intensity and quality. This self-listening happens only when the perceived sound vibration is correctly regulated by bone conduction, which is the path of transmission for sound through all of the body’s bones, and in particular, the cranium.
It is well-established that when the mother is expecting, she transmits to her child the entire panoply of affective and emotional states she experiences, both negative and positive. This is why it is important that during this exceptional period of communication, the future mother experience the best possible conditions of relaxation and calm. Moreover, the maternal voice is perceived by the fetus, and thus constitutes a sort of primordial affective sound substance, which is absolutely important for the physical and psychic development of the child. This is why it is very important that the sound of the maternal voice be pleasantly perceived by the child.
During its development, a child has to learn to select the sound elements that are compatible with its linguistic environment, and at the same time ignore those elements that are absent from the phonetic structures that it perceives in its usual surroundings. The child will acquire a linguistic coding by adjusting to the sound structures of its own language. But because this coding is specific to each language, it will rapidly become a brake on the learning of a foreign language, insofar as the sounds of the foreign language do not conform to the sound patterns of its native language, which have been interiorized during infancy. A language is therefore first of all a kind of music, that is, an ensemble of specific rhythms and sounds. These rhythms and sounds constitute the fundamental sound substrate on which all other acquisitions will be based (for example, lexical, syntactical, and semantic acquisitions).
The goal of the Tomatis® Method is to give to anyone wishing to learn a foreign language the possibility of truly appropriating these rhythms and sounds by allowing the ear to adapt itself effectively to this foreign music, so that it may analyze and reproduce it. This requires that students free themselves from the usual rhythmic and sonorous habits of their native language, habits that often have a negative influence on learning a new language.