What is the Tomatis® method?
The Tomatis® method is a type of sound therapy, similar to auditory integration training. It claims to improve listening and communication skills.
A person doing the Tomatis® method uses headphones to listen to electronically modiﬁed music as well as other sounds – for example, a mother’s voice.
Who is the Tomatis® method for?
Supporters of the Tomatis® method argue that it can be used to help people with language and speech difficulties, including autistic children.
What is the Tomatis® method used for?
The Tomatis® method claims to improve speech and language skills, communication and behaviour. It’s also supposed to help with balance and coordination difficulties and with depression and anxiety. Some people have used it to help with learning a new language.
Where does the Tomatis® method come from?
This method was developed in the 1960s by Dr Alfred Tomatis, a French ear, nose and throat specialist. Tomatis was interested in the difference between hearing and listening.
What is the idea behind the Tomatis® method?
Hearing is a passive process in which the ear simply perceives sound. It’s possible to hear sound without actually taking in the meaning of what you’re hearing.
Tomatis believed that people who can hear might not be able to listen properly because their middle ear muscles aren’t working properly. He also believed that listening ability affects spoken and written language development and communication.
According to Tomatis, listening to modified music can exercise the muscles in the ear and stimulate connections between the ear and the brain and enhance people’s listening and communication skills.
What does the Tomatis® method involve?
The therapy involves the person listening to music (usually Mozart and Gregorian chants). The music is filtered using an electronic device called the ‘electronic ear’ to emphasise the high-frequency sounds.
Sound usually travels to the inner ear in two ways – air conduction and bone conduction. In air conduction, sound travels through the outer ear to the middle ear, where it’s changed to bone conduction and is sent to the inner ear. In bone conduction, sound travels through the skull directly to the inner ear, bypassing the middle ear.
In the Tomatis® method, a person uses special headphones that transmit sound directly to the bones as well as through the air.
Typically, the treatment involves an initial phase of 15 days with two hours listening each day. This is followed by around 3-5 weeks off and then another 2-3 blocks of two hours listening each day for 8-10 days. These blocks also have time off between them.
The cost of the Tomatis® method depends on the service or practitioner that you use, but it can cost a lot.
You can contact the NDIS to find out whether you can include the cost of using the Tomatis® method in children’s NDIS plans.
Does the Tomatis® method work for autistic people?
Only one high-quality study of the Tomatis® method has been conducted so far. Its results suggest that the Tomatis® method doesn’t improve language skills in autistic people.
There have been other studies of the Tomatis® method, but they haven’t used reliable research methods. This means that we can’t tell whether the results seen in the studies have happened because of the Tomatis® method or because of something else.
A review of all types of auditory integration training (AIT) found that there’s no evidence that they’re effective as therapies for autistic people. There’s no evidence that AIT helps speech or language or improves the core characteristics of autism.
More high-quality research is needed to work out whether the Tomatis® method works for autistic people.
Who practises the Tomatis® method?
Certified Tomatis® practitioners are members of the International Association of Registered Certified Tomatis Consultants.
Parent education, training, support and involvement
If your autistic child is using the Tomatis® method, your only involvement is taking your child to sessions.
Where can you find a Tomatis® practitioner?
If you’re interested in the Tomatis® method, you can talk about it with your GP or one of the other professionals working with your child. You could also talk about this therapy 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.