What is Auditory Integration Training (AIT)?
Auditory Integration Training (AIT) is a type of sound therapy, similar to the Tomatis method. It aims to reduce sensitivity to sounds or other problems with how sounds are processed.
Who is Auditory Integration Training (AIT) for?
Auditory Integration Training (AIT) is sometimes used for autistic children, aged 3 years or older, who have additional sensory problems like painful or hypersensitive hearing.
It isn’t suitable for children under 3 years, or children with ear wax problems, inner ear damage, ear infections or hearing loss.
What is Auditory Integration Training (AIT) used for?
Practitioners of Auditory Integration Training (AIT) say that it can reduce:
- distortions in hearing
- extremely sensitive hearing
- irregularities in how sounds are processed.
These difficulties can cause discomfort or confusion in autistic children.
Some practitioners also claim that AIT can help to improve speech and language difficulties and other core features of autism.
Where does Auditory Integration Training (AIT) come from?
Auditory Integration Training (AIT) was developed in the 1960s by an ear, nose and throat specialist, Dr Guy Berard, with the aim of reducing the effects of auditory damage. AIT was first used for autistic people in 1975.
What is the idea behind Auditory Integration Training (AIT) for autistic children?
Auditory Integration Training (AIT) is based on the idea that our behaviour can be influenced by how we hear. Supporters of this theory also believe that hypersensitive hearing can limit people’s ability to learn and pay attention.
AIT aims to reduce sensitivity to sounds and also other problems with how sounds are processed.
What does Auditory Integration Training (AIT) involve?
Typically, children attend 30-minute training sessions twice a day for 10 days. In each session, children listen to music on headphones. The music has been altered to remove certain sounds, and the volume is carefully controlled.
The therapy starts by presenting familiar sounds. Over time, more challenging sounds (usually those with a high or low frequency) are introduced. This helps children slowly get used to the sounds so they’re no longer a problem.
Does Auditory Integration Training (AIT) help autistic children?
There’s no evidence that Auditory Integration Therapy (AIT) or other sound therapies help with speech and language or the core characteristics of autism.
It’s worth noting that no link has been established between sensitive hearing and autism.
To reduce or prevent other hearing issues, it’s recommended that children taking part in AIT are examined at the beginning, middle and end of the AIT therapy by a qualified health care professional or auditory specialist. This will help to avoid problems like ear wax or fluid build-up and possible damage to eardrums.
Who practises Auditory Integration Training (AIT)?
There are some approved ‘Berard practitioners’, but there are no formal, internationally registered qualifications for practising Auditory Integration Training (AIT). Some speech and language pathologists and occupational therapists might be involved in organisations offering AIT.
Where can you find a practitioner?
If you’re interested in Auditory Integration Training (AIT), see your GP or one of the other professionals working with your child. They can talk with you about its risks and benefits.
You could also talk about it with your NDIA planner, early childhood partner or local area coordinator (LAC), if you have one.
Parent education, training, support and involvement
If your child is doing Auditory Integration Training (AIT), your only involvement is taking your child to sessions.
If you’re concerned about your child’s hearing, it’s best to see your GP or arrange a hearing test with an audiologist.
Auditory Integration Training (AIT) sessions can range from $1200 to $2000 for a total of 20 sessions, but costs vary depending on the service or practitioner you use. Auditory testing might involve additional costs. Medicare doesn’t fund this therapy, so consultations vary in price. Some private health care funds might cover a portion of the consultation fee. This can be claimed immediately if the provider has HICAPS.
AIT is not approved for funding in NDIS plans.
Therapies and supports for autistic children range from behaviour therapies and developmental approaches to medicines and alternative therapies. When you understand the main types of therapies and supports for autistic children, it’ll be easier to work out the approach that will best suit your child.