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How Therapeutic Listening Helps Kids Thrive

A Sensory Intervention You've Got to Hear About
 Jun 26, 2018  10 min read

What is Therapeutic Listening?

Therapeutic Listening is a research-based tool developed by Vital Links, and the idea behind it is “listening with the whole body.” It is hard to deny the inherent therapeutic nature of music, but Therapeutic Listening is more than just a music program. It can be used as treatment for any and all age groups who have a tougher time with listening, attention, communication, and processing sensory information.


What is the idea behind it?

Music has an impact on all of us. You might use music to wake you up while you get ready in the morning, to relax on your way home from work, to concentrate while you’re studying, to regulate your breathing while practicing yoga, to pace yourself when you’re out for a run, or to have fun and let loose when you’re out dancing with friends.

Music can affect how we feel, how we interact with others, and how we navigate the world around us. It causes our body, our brain, and our ears to respond in both conscious and unconscious ways. Therapeutic Listening uses this basic principle to create music that’s specifically designed to capture the listener’s attention and evoke a reaction.

Our five senses are the faculties of sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch. Hearing is regulated by the auditory sensory system, but the auditory system does not work alone. It works alongside other sensory systems to have a wide range of influence over our bodies and behavior. Therapeutic Listening works in the same way and engages the entire body.


What is the music like?

The music used for Therapeutic Listening is both similar different from other music you normally hear on the radio. Songs range from children’s songs to classical music, but the tracks are specifically altered to engage with the parts of the brain that process auditory stimulation.

As you listen to the music, it sounds like someone is having the time of their lives tampering with it – turning the bass and treble knobs up and down throughout the song. For many of us, this constant change in frequency would be mildly irritating, but the alterations aren’t random. The music has been adjusted to highlight the ‘interesting’ parts of the music, helping the kiddos listening to better focus and engage with the song. This is a first virtual, more manageable step in learning to tune in to surrounding environments.

In a sense, the music can help children’s brains and bodies to start to know what calm feels like. Focusing intently on the music helps bring the body into a regulated state, and practicing that focus frequently can help the body learn to stay that way on its own. The hope, according to The Anonymous OT, is that “eventually the children will know how to get to that happy place of organization by themselves.”


Who can benefit from Therapeutic Listening?

Therapeutic listening is a valuable intervention tool for many kiddos, but how can you know whether or not your child will benefit? Of course, a Compleat KiDZ therapist can help you determine if your kiddo will see results from therapeutic listening, but signs that parents might look for in their child include:

  • Listening Difficulties: kiddos may have trouble responding to sounds and verbal directions, and feel overwhelmed or have trouble hearing you in loud environments
  • Poor School Performance: they may have trouble with handwriting, reading, or spelling; they may do better in non-verbal subjects than in verbal subjects
  • Attention Deficits: difficulty concentrating, disorganization and trouble planning, has trouble following directions
  • Trouble with Self-Regulation: challenges with transitions or changes in routine; difficulties with irritability or mood, inconsistent periods of very high or very low energy, struggles with sleeping, eating, and bowel or bladder control
  • Difficulties with Communication: verbal or non-verbal; trouble with self-esteem or peer relationships
  • Sensory Issues: abnormal response to sensory stimuli (sound, touch, taste, pain)
  • Gross Motor Control Issues: challenges perceiving and navigating space; poor timing/sequencing of motor skills; postural insecurity (fear of heights, playing on playground equipment),
  • See more listed on the Vital Links website.

How does it work/ what should I expect?

If you think Therapeutic Listening is an option you would like to pursue, here is what the coming process could look like. First, a specially-trained therapist will evaluate your kiddo, looking for changes in attention, body posture, sleeping and eating, and organizational abilities and pairing these clinical observations with your child’s developmental and sensory motor history. Then he/ she will select a starting musical progression that best meets your child’s needs.

No two children are the same, so why should each musical progression be the same? The listening protocols that will guide your child are special to him or her. Parents and caregivers are pivotal to the process as well. You will likely be given a listening routine to carry out at home on a daily basis for a length of time appropriate for your child. Specific equipment like headphones fitted for the capacities of Therapeutic Listening will need to be used.

Caregivers play an important role in observing the changes the music has over time and helping to fine tune the programming for their child. Each child is unique, so their music program needs to be unique and flexible to fit their needs. The progression will evolve depending on what the therapist and/or parent observes to be most effective for the child.

When your child is listening at home, try to notice how different selections help the child tune into and engage with their environment or emotions. Do they seem engaged or bored? Are they emotionally attuned or just frustrated?

Your therapist may ask questions like these to help evaluate the effects of the music outside of therapy sessions, and then use both your reports and their own observations to make changes to the program as needed.

Normally, treatment will involve two 30-min listening sessions each day, for a period of two weeks. At the end of each two-week period, your therapist will make recommendations for new music based on the kiddo’s experience and progress with the current selection. The therapist will also work with parents/ caregivers to set new goals each cycle.


What are the benefits?

The impact of Therapeutic Listening is widespread, positively impacting participation at both home and school. Listening therapy benefits kiddos’ attention and focus, sensory defensiveness, energy levels, mood, transitions, sleeping, and posture and movement.

Parents and teachers have seen more long-term results of a Therapeutic Listening program including:

  • Increased focus and attention
  • Better moods
  • Improved handwriting
  • Greater tolerance to noise
  • Fewer tantrums
  • Less anxiety
  • Better self-regulation
  • Improved communication skills and ease with self-expression
  • See more listed on the Vital Links website.

How can I get Therapeutic Listening for my child at Compleat KiDZ?

First, one of our trained therapists will evaluate your child to determine which specific Modulated Music albums are likely to benefit your kiddo and address their needs. The listening therapy program will probably include sessions in the clinic as well as at home, depending on the access you have to the appropriate listening devices.

While the music itself is easily available, getting the right headphones can be trickier. We have the equipment you’ll need for in-clinic listening sessions, and your therapist team will help recommend listening devices for at-home use that are comfortable and effective.

For getting the music itself, you have many options available. The Therapeutic Listening App, through which you can access Modulated Music albums, is available for download on iTunes. Instructions for the app can be found on the Vital Links website. Also, you may purchase the Modulated Music albums as microSD chips, or you may purchase CDs directly from Vital Sounds.

  Find a clinic offering therapeutic listening near you: Compleat KiDZ locations.

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This notice was published and becomes effective on August l, 2011.