Coming to the listening centre was probably one of the hardest, yet best, decisions that I have ever had to make. It was overwhelming to think of how I was going to put our life on hold for 15 days, two times, with a 2 month break in between. My husband wouldn't be able to take off from work and I would be traveling alone to Canada from the US with my two young children.
I read about the method and searched the internet voraciously for information for one year before I even made the call to the Listening Centre. Even after the call, it took me another year to finally make the decision to give it a try. Not because of lack of information or kindness on their end, but on my part because I am a nervous Nelly. I must have read Norman Doidge's book a million times among other things. I kept on asking myself if I was insane for considering a method that was not scientifically proven. (I come from a family of MD's and our son's doctor told us the only thing that was scientifically proven to work was ABA) My only regret is that I didn't make the trip sooner.
History: PDD - NOS (Not Otherwise Specified) and autism spectrum diagnosis at age 3. Did everything the MD's told me. 20 hours of VBABA, ABA, 5 hours of OT, 5 hours of speech a week. We did this religiously for years with minimal improvements. William couldn't communicate except for demands, he was not able to socialize and was even aggressive with other children and family members, he would eat about 3 different foods, he would have tantrums that lasted an hour and jeopardized his safety - banging head, throwing things, as well as the safety of those around him.
We eventually tried ILS and we did see nice improvements. This gave me a cue or a sign that I was onto something that might help my son - I knew there was something about this "listening". The ILS helped to begin to tame his wild sensory system. However, William was never a one size fits all kid and I wanted to find a listening program that could be tailored specifically for him. I had concerns about the one size fits all packaging of ILS as well as the lack of training provided to its providers. I was keen on the idea of Tomatis, I liked the intensiveness, experience, expertise and customization provided by Paul Madaule, his philosophy and his method. Additionally, if I was going to do this, I was going to go to the best - and the best as far as I could research was Paul and his team. And, they did not disappoint. The moment that I met Paul, I knew I had made the right decision. He just "got" William in one minute as if he had known him for years. And, he remains our primary "go to" person for his continued healing.
The trip couldn't have happened at a better time. It was a rough year, the teachers had told me that there was nothing more they could do for my son in the realm of academics. The teachers couldn't handle him in general ed and they wanted to put him in the LLD room, essentially isolate him. He couldn't read well and they couldn't keep his attention.
At home, life was challenging and you probably wouldn't really call it "living". When I hear the song from Frozen, I could really relate to the line: "A kingdom of isolation and it looks like I'm the queen". Socializing and being part of a community are hard when you have a child with a social/communication/behavior disorder. It is often easier to hide at home than go out. And with ABA, you aren't allowed to show any reaction to bad behavior and only reward the good behavior. It is stressful to pretend to be normal in public. I was exhausted and felt like I was raising a wild child. I will never forget the mean stares I would get from people in the grocery store or wherever because William's behavior (running around or making loud noises or touching things or tantrums). The burden and stress a family with special needs can bear cannot be underestimated.
When I look back at the family that we were... I think of unhealthy levels of stress and lots of hiding from life. And sometimes feared what would happen when he grew up - what would happen when my child with aggressive tendencies and little language grew up. Would he really hurt me or others? Will he be able to take care of himself? I decided that I couldn't continue on this way... it wasn't living and I was exhausted. I knew there had to be something else if I searched hard enough...
William was 9 years old when we started the program at The Listening Centre. We did two 15 day sessions with about 6 weeks in between. We saw results immediately and we continue to see growth. Clinically speaking: self-regulation has improved, sensory issues subsided, language/communication improved, social/emotional growth has expanded, motor planning and independence has improved, and he is making progress in his academics.
After years of plateaus, parents with special needs know how priceless progress is in any way shape or form. As a person, William is so much calmer and happier. He is able to have conversations and ask questions of others. He used to speak "at you" about only his needs or interests and was incapable of coming up with or asking a question. His language, speech and clarity have improved so much. He is conversational now and we are just working on "staying on topic". He has a very strong relationship with his sister and has friends at school! This is a huge development coming from not being able to clearly talk and converse. His social/emotional growth has taken off and his reciprocity has blossomed where it used to be non-existent. It was an "all about William" world. I never dreamed he would ever ask me "What do you want do to, Mom" - but, now, he does. William used to run in and out of school with this huge aura of restless energy around him. Now, he walks in slowly and purposefully, looks around for someone to say hello to or wave to, where he used to just be stuck in his own world, probably working so hard to just keep it together. Now, when I pick him up from school, I can often find him talking with friends. I used to find him alone or making trouble or getting in arguments with friends and I would just whisk him out of there before he would make scene.
William is doing so much better academically and socially in school. He went from hating school and his teachers to loving school and his teachers. He is writing sentences and I can't keep track of how many "junior" chapter books he has read. He went from hating to read to being able to read and this has peeked his curiosity to learn more. He literally started the first signs of showing interest in reading after 3 days of our listening program.
He started to point at signs and read them and grab books that I was reading to him and asking me to point to the words. He had done every reading program out there and he had a tutor 3-5x a week for reading for years and that didn't work as well as the listening program did.
Another significant change is William’s connection to his body - he is able to play sports so much better - his eye/hand coordination and balance took off. His soccer coach recently asked me if he is the same kid and if he even qualifies to be on the spectrum anymore? He is recreationally playing lacrosse and baseball and soccer and is on a competitive swim team. He even started to like to dance. He used to refuse to dance and scream if we played music. We were at New Year's eve party and I was afraid William would want to run out of the ballroom because of the fancy atmosphere and loud music. But he turned to me and said can I go out on the dance floor? I couldn't understand why he would ask me that. I took a leap of faith and said ok.... Well, he was the first one out there and danced the night away. I was in shock. I never dreamed we would be able to live and celebrate this way. The way I always dreamed of, but we couldn't due to his condition.
Another major thing is William used to only eat hot dogs and bacon and noodles and pizza. But, now he tries everything - shrimp and pork chops and chicken - you name it. Yes, he still has his favorite foods but now, he is willing to try anything. Anyone who has a child with SPD knows what a HUGE development this is. And, he did it all on his own. Instead of me always saying just try it... he independently asks for it. This all magically happened while we were doing the listening program and has lasted. He also used to not be able to sit still through a dinner at a nice restaurant. Now, he can sit through a 1 1/2 hour long dinner. I used to have a panic attack at the thought of taking him out to dinner. Now, we love going out to dinner!
Another big thing is behavior... I used to worry that William would be aggressive with other children (hit, kick, pinch) and I would hold my breath anywhere we went (playgrounds, organized sports were a nightmare) But, now, we can sign him up and I can take him anywhere without worrying my head off that he might hurt someone else. Instead, we go places and he makes "new friends"! His camp counselor even informed me that the "kids are drawn to him especially because he is so good at sports". I couldn't believe it!
A most important change: He used to be so rigid. Things had to be a certain way, in a certain order at a certain time and he would completely freak out if these things weren't as he wished them to be. It was a paralyzing way to live. The reduction of his rigidity is probably the most significant change as it is really liberating for him and the whole family.
Another thing is William had some significant transient motor tics ranging from eye and face ticks to arm and whole body tics where he would not be able to control his arm from flying outward. These tics are gone now (knock on wood). I had previously taken him to movement disorder specialists in NYC who told me that there was nothing that could be done for him except for medication.
Is he quirky - yes. But, he is happy and living a much fuller life - Yes. In fact, the whole family is living a much happier and fuller life thanks to Paul and the Listening Centre.
Our situation was that it was either the Listening Centre or medication. Paul was our last hope and shot before trying medication. We remain medication free and our son continues to blossom. After years of plateaus, we feel truly blessed to see progress! I couldn't be happier with my decision to go to the Listening Centre. We went from hopeless to hopeful, thanks to Paul, Tomatis and the Listening Centre. I have had a sea of professionals on William's team but the Listening Centre is one of the best I have encountered. Paul is a wealth of information and I am so grateful that he has shared his knowledge with me and been the integral piece of the puzzle in our journey to healing.
Additionally, my daughter who is neurotypical, had mild auditory processing challenges, she did well in school but avoided reading and writing. At times, she would mis-hear and mis-say certain words that sounded similar. And, her reading was choppy and slow - she avoided reading and writing at all costs. We had her do one 15 day session with Paul. While we were still at the center, her reading exploded. I couldn't get her to put a book down! She went from hating to read to loving to read. Her reading now is much smoother and fluent. She also is pronouncing words much more clearly and she is writing beautifully. Her ability to retell a story is much more fluid now as well. She is getting all A's in areas of language arts and writing that used to be a weakness for her. She was taking a big jump to middle school where the demands would be greater than elementary school - and she is excelling and is even in accelerated mathematics. She is old enough to recognize the difference in herself and attributes the change to Paul & The Listening Centre. She has blossomed and is now tremendously successful thanks to receiving this program at just the right time!
My only regret is that we did not try the Listening Centre sooner, even the MD's in my family who were against my initial decision to go - cannot believe the difference in both of my children - and, now they are advocates for the program.
And all of this in just over a year! Thank you, Paul! There are no words!
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