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 three years or older, who have additional sensory problems like painful or hypersensitive hearing.
It isn’t suitable for children under three years, or children with an ear wax problem, 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?
Children attend two 30-minute training sessions 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.
Auditory Integration Training (AIT) sessions (total of 20) can range from $1200 to $2000, 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.
Does Auditory Integration Training (AIT) work for autistic children?
There’s no evidence that Auditory Integration Therapy (AIT) or other sound therapies work as therapies for autistic children. There’s no evidence that AIT helps 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 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.
Parent education, training, support and involvement
If your child is doing Auditory Integration Training (AIT), your only involvement is taking your child to sessions.
Where can you find a practitioner?
If you’re interested in Auditory Integration Training (AIT), it’s a good idea to talk about its risks and benefits with your GP or one of the other professionals working with your child. You could also talk about it with your NDIA planner, NDIS early childhood partner or NDIS local area coordinator (LAC), if you have one.
There are many therapies and supports for autistic children. These range from behaviour therapies and developmental approaches to medications and alternative therapies. When you understand the main categories that these therapies and supports fall into, it’ll be easier to work out the approach that will best suit your child.