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Tomatis, Autism and Sensory Integration

.......Tomatis Topics

T omatis found that cutaneous sensitivity and the quality of phonatory control are in constant relation to one another. The more precise the control, the more the rhythm is correctly followed, and the more acute the sensitivity of the skin remains. (CE107) This theory led to the development of another apparatus capable of allowing at the same time the audio-vocal control by the ear and the materialization of the verbal "flow" over the body in such a way that its progress is imprinted on the cutaneous keyboard.

Ear and Bone Conduction

Tomatis' study of the stutter's lack skin control, along with his theory of inter-uterine listening which we will discuss shortly lead him to his understanding of the importance of bone conduction in audio-vocal control. Tomatis finally came to the belief that ultimately the stutter does not hear or listen to him-self, and this is because he is incapable of auditory awareness on the level of bone conduction. The vibratory perception through the skin is very much tied to the vibratory perception through bone conduction both phylogenetically and ontogenetically.

(Reptiles through skin and bones) (Fetus hearing phonemes and moving) This doesn't mean that the individual cannot hear through bone conduction, it more that they don't process through bone conduction. Often they are more sensitive in bone conduction.

G ait theory and Tactile Defensiveness When we speak the sound comes out, with the higher sounds thrown out in a straight line, and lower sounds spread out everywhere. (this is one of the reasons why our voice sounds funny in a tape recorder, higher than we think) At the same time the skill vibrates and transmits sound information directly to the ear and down the spinal column directly into the whole body. Great singers control their voices through bone conduction.

Tomatis found in stutters and this is especially true for autistic children that there was a lack of harmony between bone and air conduction, with the latter (bone conduction), always being more sensitive. When we speak we bath ourselves in sound, it is part of our feedback. In other words we incorporate (meaning the body) the sound and Tomatis would say when we have these delays "we cannot incorporate the Word" (107 CE)

Our self-listening mechanism is largely controlled in how we hear ourselves through bone conduction. We are our own first listeners. As we omit sound it goes out our mouth and returns via our ears but even before that we hear ourselves through bone conduction. Tomatis found that the best singer had excellent perception of their own voices through bone conduction and they were neither hypersensitive or unawares in this type of listening.

Acoustic Geography

By now Tomatis is working with singers from all over Europe and he was working with several from Venice who all had difficulty pronouncing "r" with the tips of their tongue. This makes singing an Italian libretto, which is full of these phonemes very difficulty. When he gave them a different Italian ear, such as Caruso, they could immediately say the sound. So it wasn't the language, it was the region Tomatis started to speculate "For each region there was not only a dialect (way of speaking), but also ' an ear' (a specific envelope curve which is highlighted by a preferred frequency band). (p70CE) If this were true then wouldn't it also hold that there was a type of ear for each nationality? Tomatis found this to be true,

The French have been known for having a particularly hard time in learning other languages while the Slavic language speakers who have a more open ear have and easier time. In France at that time students learning a foreign language typically quit after the forth lesson. In children Tomatis observed that after several months of listening he observed psycho-morphological modifications. The body took on a different attitude. By putting a German ear on a French Man, they would immediately stand up straighter.

Another example of by putting an English Ear on a German and asking them to continue speaking in German he was unable to think until he removed his headphones. He conducted these same experiments. For example if the auditory pattern of Chinese was imposed, which is a very tonal language and different from French, he would create such an inhibition that it suppresses everything even up to the faculty of thought. Through his language lab equipment of measuring audiograms and analyzing voice (spectrographs) Tomatis studied the different envelopes of listening between different languages. Insert the slides of language frequencies

Language and Body Image

Language is the communication with another through the intermediary of Self. To communicate successfully we have to use our whole body. The human body is the instrument of language, and human language is the song that makes it resound. Man's body is the instrument man's thought uses to speak. Our body image is constantly formed by our spoken words, sculpted and drawn in its finest detail by our sonic caresses. *********************** Tomatis now started to work with students (often children) by helping their ear to perceive the frequency of the language they were trying to learn. While working with these students he remarked on how often he heard from the parents "now my child reads so much better" He observed that the development of the audio-phonatory mechanism made the acquiring the mechanics of reading much easier.

Role of Listening in Learning

Tomatis then started to explore the relationship between reading and listening (p89 CE) The printed symbol is merely a representation of a sound to be reproduced. Reading out loud is audio-phonatory, yet this interdependence remains valid with silent reading. Mcguigan and Winstead "Discriminative relationship between cover oral behavior and the phonemic system in internal information processing" Journal of Experimental Psychology, 1974 103,5,885-890 Studied muscular reaction while reading and found similar responses in both reading out loud and silent reading. Similar results were found in barium swallowing studies of the oral pharyngeal cavity, when a person was asked to speak his name or merely think it. Tomatis now convinced that reading was connected to listening started to move in the treatment of reading disorders and dyslexia.

We Listen with our whole Body

Tomatis also started to recognize the role the skin played in listening. The sensory cells found in the skin are differentiated cells of Corti from the inner ear. He developed a cutaneous audiogram (dermogram) and measured thresholds of when people would respond. He found that some people were very delayed in their responses (the sound would have to be louder in order for them to respond) at which point they would respond in a very overwhelmed manner. All or Nothing. When we speak we bath ourselves in sound. It part of our feedback. In other words we incorporate (meaning the body) the sound and Tomatis would say when we have these delays "we cannot incorporate the Word" (107 CE) Our self-listening mechanism is largely controlled in how we hear ourselves through bone conduction. We are our own first listeners. As we omit sound it goes out our mouth and returns via our ears but even before that we hear ourselves through bone conduction. Tomatis found that the best singer had excellent perception of their own voices through bone conduction and they were neither hypersensitive or unawares in this type of listening.

The developmental relationship between Listening and Language Acquisition

By now Tomatis is totally fascinated by the phenomenon of language and how humans acquire it. "Language is what makes us different from other species." -A.A.Tomatis "What gives birth to this desire to communicate with one another?" -A.A.Tomatis Nothing is less physiological than speaking. Oral language is a combination of two complex structures built to fulfill other functions, a digestive structure and a respiratory structure. Onto these we impose language. (p125 CE)

I ntra-Uterine Listening Eggs of singing birds that were hatched by non-singing birds were at risk not to sing. Eggs hatch by birds that sung in a different way were at risk to sing the wrong way. Tomatis speculated that the audio-phonatory conditioning process happened in ova. Konrad Lorenz, the 1973 Nobel Laureate's Imprinted Ducks "The Companion in the Birds World" 1937 Tomatis inferred that the fetus is capable of listening. 1953 he devised an experiment to replicate the listening of the fetus.

Intra-Uterine Listening 2

He devised an experiment to replicate the listening of the fetus. He felt that the fetus' ear was protected from the low frequency rumbling of the mothers' vegetative functions Not only did he say that the fetus was listening but it was listening to the mother's voice via bone conduction from the mothers' larynx to her spinal column to the fetus bone structure. Tomatis felt that this early listening played an important role in inviting the fetus to communicate, develop language, and learn. The sensory cells of corti (aquatic ciliary cells) are some of the oldest on the earth and are encountered in the most primitive life forms such as the jellyfish. In the study of phylogenesis, we see these cells emerge from the statocyte of the jellyfish to the sensory cells of corti in man.

These sensory cells are present in the utricle, saccule, the semi-circular canals and the cochlea. The cells of corti are very dense in the part of the basilar membrane sensitive to higher frequency sounds and their density decreases in the area sensitive to middle and lower frequency sounds. During the uterine life, the cells of Corti (aquatic ciliary cells) responsive to higher frequency sounds mature more quickly than those responsive to lower frequency sounds. This protects the fetus from the vegetative sounds of the mother's body.

The opening paragraph in the recent special edition of Newsweek " The journey toward language starts not in the nursery but in the womb, where the fetus is continually bathed in the sounds of its mother's voice"

Babies are born imprinted to their mothers voice because they have been bathed in the sound of it for the last four months of gestation. Phonemes are the smallest units of sound from which we form words. There are 52 phonemes from which all of the worlds 6000 languages are formed. Ultra sound studies have shown that by the seventh month in utero, the fetus responds to each of the phonemes in a word spoken by the mother with a specific muscular movement. Also the fetus responds immediately, in other words there is no time delay between the sensory input of the mothers voice and the motor response of the fetus.

(A very fast system - sounds like bone conduction to me, which Tomatis has always described as a rapid conduction system.) In the 1947 Bernard and Sontag published research in the Journal of Genetic Psychology on fetal moments in response to sounds that were detectable from the 5th month in utero. In 1974's Condon and Sander of Boston University discovered that at birth the newborn responds with a precise muscle or muscle group to each of the phonemes used in the mother's speech. They discovered that these responses were formed in utero and were well established by birth. They analyzed this synchrony between phoneme and movement and accurately predicted the infant's muscular response to any word spoken in the infant's immediate presence. This imprinting begins in the late part of the second trimester of gestation and the capacity is clearly "hardwired" however genetic hardwiring is only half the story, because if there is no speech stimulus from the mother there is no is no development of the phonetic response in utero (Bio of Trans-JCP 100-101). The child can develop speech but needs to be exposed to it once he is born, as there is a critical period for this phoneme-movement synchrony to be established. Also of importance to note, this phoneme-movement synchrony while overt at birth remains on a more subdued level that can be measured by instruments.