A parent questions an auditory intervention program

Dear Dr. Alterio:

I read your article on Tomatis and other auditory integration programs. My son has autism, and we are midway through a program that uses a form of Tomatis. Their company is called {REDACTED}.

My gut is telling me that this may be a scam, but as a concerned parent with a child with Autism I'll admit that I am easy prey. During one visit the instructor (I now question whether she was an OT) told me that my son fell asleep during the session. I asked how long he was asleep, and she said about 45 minutes (the session was only 80 minutes long). She then proceeded to tell me that that was ok, because he had the head phones on during that time. Anyway, before I sink another $4k into this program, I would be interesting in knowing if you've heard anything about this facility, as well as you opinions on this form of therapy. If you think I'm being sold snake oil, please let me know. As I said, my gut is telling me to use the money to further his ABA sessions.

Thank you,

A Concerned Parent


Dear Concerned Parent,

I have never heard of this center so I really have no information about them or their work.

I have not changed my opinions about these interventions and I don't recommend them for families. These techniques are not supported by research and they are largely disregarded by most practitioners. Some of these techniques might be interesting to research and I am not opposed to that but I disagree with marketing them to families and charging such high out-of-pocket prices. It is my opinion that in general you would probably be better off investing your time and resources into ABA interventions or functional-based therapy sessions. Any type of ABA or functional intervention may also include some components of addressing atypical sensory processing characteristics and traits, but they will do so within the structure of a scientifically defensible intervention plan.

I strongly encourage you to consult with your pediatrician, psychologist, or other trusted health care practitioner to get some additional advice on what the best plan would be for your child and your family.

Generally, a good measure of the 'acceptability' of an intervention program is the degree to which it is covered by most medical insurance, or the degree to which it is readily accepted by the professionals in your child's school, and whether or not it is supported by your own pediatrician.

For example, occupational therapy may be covered by your medical insurance if the program is time-limited, if there are measurable and functional objectives, and if the program is designed to address functional performance deficits by providing your family with activities you can engage in over time to help facilitate skills and normal development. That would be very different than a program that charges you thousands of dollars in out of pocket cash because 'insurance won't reimburse it,' does not have specific measurable or functional objectives, and is not generally accepted by the other professionals in your community.

I understand the allure of these kinds of interventions but if they indeed worked as well as advertised they would be well accepted, there would be research supporting the techniques, and national experts would be telling everyone to go and get the intervention. The facts instead are that these techniques are marginally accepted (at best), there is no research to support them, and national experts tend to advise families to avoid these experimental intervention methods.

I know that hearing an anecdotal success story is usually more than enough to spark hope in a family that is trying to find the best intervention for their child. You are wise to question whether or not this is an appropriate way for you to spend your resources. I again encourage you to speak with your child's pediatrician to help you design the best intervention program for your child.

Best of luck to you and your family.

Christopher J. Alterio, Dr.OT, OTR
ABC Therapeutics
11390 Transit Road
East Amherst, NY 14051
(716) 580-3040
(716) 580-3042 (fax)


Popular posts from this blog

Deconstructing the myth of clothing sensitivity as a 'sensory processing disorder'

On retained primitive reflexes

Twenty years of SIPT - where do we go next?