Integrated Listening-A Non-Medication Alternative in ADD/ADHD Treatment
by Dr. Mark Prohaska
ADHD is defined by a combination of inattentiveness, a lack of concentration, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Experts agree that there is no single solution to treating this complex condition, and most patients require multiple strategies.
Parents are usually encouraged to put their child on a medication. Although research has consistently shown this to be the most effective intervention, it is seldom a total solution and parents are often resistant to medicating their child out of a fear that negative side effects may create a whole host of new problems. If the services are available parents may also be offered the option of developing and implementing behavioral interventions. Although this can also be a helpful approach, its success often relies on the ability of the child to self-regulate and control impulses, both of which are typically impaired in kids with ADD.
Thankfully, a third option is now available, and Integrated Listening (iLs) is emerging as an exciting new modality that compliments both behavioral and pharmaceutical approaches to the treatment ADD/ADHD. Capitalizing on the fairly recent discovery of the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections (a process known as neuroplasticity), iLs uses multisensory input combining sound with visual, vestibular, and movement exercises in a manner that “trains” the brain to process sensory input more effectively. Higher brain functions (attention, memory, concentration, etc.) are dependent upon adequate input from the “lower” brain stem and cerebellum, and in individuals with ADD this vital communication between brain areas is often very poor. As a result, incoming information fails to get passed on to the higher level “thinking brain” and is therefore never processed. One example of this is when parents describe feeling as though they are “talking through” their child, as if not a word they had spoken was heard.
The iLs approach works on a physiological level to force the “thinking brain” to attend while simultaneously ‘exercising’ areas of the lower brain (sub-cortical) and body involved in regulation and information processing. Multisensory input combining sound and movement simultaneously stimulates both
lower sub-cortical and higher cortical activity, improving the ability of brain stem and cerebellum to process and communicate incoming sensory information to the cortex. Specifically, iLs has been demonstrated effective in improving:
> Concentration: staying on task for longer periods of time
> Communication: paying attention during conversation; improved listening
> Organization: planning and following through on tasks; less procrastination
> Physical regulation: calmer demeanor, less fidgety
> Anxiety: reducing nervousness and improving sleeping patterns
In children with ADD, this approach can dramatically improve attention, behavioral, and emotional issues, and often results in either a reduction in dosage or sometimes a total elimination of the need for ADD medications.
The application of iLs is much broader than just ADD; its effectiveness has also been demonstrated in children with sensory processing disorders, motor delays and incoordination,learning disabilities, speech impediments, and even developmental disabilities such as Autism.
If you are a parent seeking to help your child with ADD/ADHD, or an adult struggling with these issues yourself, iLs may offer hope where medications and behavioral interventions have fallen short.
Dr. Mark Prohaska is a Clinical Neuropsychologist and director of the Neruopsychology Clinic, P.C. in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
The Neuropsychology Clinic runs a program that specializes in the evaluation and treatment of ADD/ADHD and learning disabilities in children and adults, and has recently incorporated iLs into the services they offer.