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Ask The Expert - Alexandra Freer
Key to Me Therapy
514 Main Street, Suite 4
Bradley Beach, NJ 07720
Alexandra L. Freer, Certified Professional Listening Therapist, founded Key to Me Therapy in Bradley Beach, New Jersey five years ago. Through her practice, she has helped hundreds of individuals with auditory processing issues, learning difficulties, sensory processing issues and spectrum-related challenges improve their sensory and auditory processing abilities. Alex has 19 years experience implementing remediation programs as an educational consultant to major school districts around the country and has published several educational texts as well as multiple articles on sensory and auditory issues. Key to Me Therapy helps individuals with processing and developmental challenges make neurological changes in processing using innovative technology-based therapies including Dynamic Listening and Interactive Metronome.
Sensory and auditory processing are two very important issues that are impacting our children and their ability to learn. Can you share with our readers what these sensory and auditory processing issues really mean?
We all perceive the world through our senses–it is the only way we know what is going on. Our primary sensory systems–visual, auditory and vestibular (movement)–work as networks that integrate information from all the body’s senses in order to provide the brain and body with the information it needs to successfully navigate its environment. If these systems develop differently in the early stages of life, misperceptions can occur, which means that an individual may receive the sensory messages but that those messages do not always match reality. For example, if a child does not crawl (or has an unusual crawl, like the “commando crawl”) before walking, that child may be having difficulty with movement perception. The same child frequently experiences other motor or movement misperceptions in the future, which can impact everything from balance and coordination to the ability to sit and attend. Likewise, if a child has chronic ear infections during crucial times in language development, that child may experience delays in speech, articulation issues and academic challenges down the road. It is important to understand that the child’s hearing may be perfect, yet what the child hears (or more accurately perceives) does not match what is being said.
What can be done about sensory and auditory processing?
Proper identification of the issues is important and not always easy. Once identified, accommodations and support, especially at school, are helpful. Remarkably, processing issues can also be treated and improved. The brain has a natural ability to change when given proper input (called neuro-plasticity). Therapies that work to change the brain’s perceptions at the neurological level–vision therapy, sensory integration therapy and listening therapy, for example–can dramatically improve an individual’s processing.
How does listening therapy work?
Let’s take the example of the child with ear infections. If fluid was present when the child first began to imprint the “TH” sound, he or she may not have developed proper perception of the frequencies associated with “TH.” Therefore, whenever the child encounters the “TH” sound, he or she may actually hear a slightly different sound, for example an “F.” Frequently, this child will make errors in spelling, reading and writing or may even have articulation errors around this sound. Listening therapy uses music that is enhanced by a computer to introduce the missing or misperceived sound frequencies to the brain. The brain then develops a pathway in response to the music and that new pathway, which correctly perceives the frequencies associated with the “TH,” will now accurately perceive the “TH.” The child will naturally show improved use of the “TH” once he or she is able to “hear” it.
Can you share an example of recent clients and their improvement over time?
Yes. A child we’ll call John came to us at seven years old. He was struggling to learn to read, had poor spelling abilities and was also having difficulty remaining attentive in class. He was socially well-adjusted, although he tended to be bossy and was not always a good sport. Although generally physically-inclined, he avoided balance activities–wouldn’t ride a bike, tried to skateboard but couldn’t, etc. Upon testing, it was discovered that John was having difficulty processing specific frequencies that relate to vowel sounds and softer consonant sounds. These same frequencies have an impact on balance and gravitational perception. He participated in Dynamic Listening Therapy–listening therapy coupled with sensory-based play activities–and within four months began to read. He still needed some help with spelling, but his confusion of vowel sounds went away. Within a short time he was reading age-appropriately, found it easier to pay attention in class and also began to ride a bike. By improving his perception of specific sound frequencies, John’s abilities changed. With help and practice, he was then able to progress academically and personally.
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