Using Music to Optimize Your Child’s Brain
October 12, 2021
As parents, we’re all looking for the best therapies for our kids. Whether it’s finding the best doctor to work with, finding ways to improve development of their brain or digging into what small changes might help with regulating emotions and the autonomic nervous system (along with many more.) I started the Autism, ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder Summit as a way for parents to learn from practitioners all over the world with different modalities that might spark some light for your child.
One modality that is enjoyed by adults and children alike is music. That’s why I brought on Alex Doman who is the founder of Advanced Brain Technologies and The Listening Program. Alex’s family has been working in this field for generations and he is passionate about using music to heal your child’s brain. In this interview that I’m sharing with you from the Autism, ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder Summit, Alex explains to us the power of sound to shape the brain, to shape emotion, to influence learning and behavior.
I hope you enjoy this episode with Alex Doman!
- Alex Doman’s deep history with music and sound therapy. (5:16)
- The science behind The Listening Program and listening therapy. (8:32)
- Why some children are sound sensitive in a crowded environment. (12:25)
- What The Listening Program looks like for our children. (18:09)
- Why the combination for two types of music can be helpful. (24:33)
- Alex’s recommendations for parents to research the science further. (27:10)
- The expectations and results parents can expect or look for during sound therapy. (28:59)
- A sleep success story from one of Alex’s patients. (34:17)
- The extensive training program that practitioners go through to use The Listening Program. (38:52)
- Where parents can find these practitioners, both virtually and in-person. (42:12)
- Will our kids really be able to wear the headphones? (45:10)
Resources and Links
Where you can find Alex: https://alexdoman.com/
Alex Doman’s book: Healing at the Speed of Sound
Articles Related to Using Music to Optimize Your Child’s Brain
More about Alex Doman
Alex Doman is the founder and CEO of Advanced Brain Technologies, co-founder of Sleep Genius, founder & director of The Movement Program Ltd., and bestselling co-author of Healing at the Speed of Sound®.
The third generation in a family of pioneers in the field of child and human brain development, Alex Doman has focused his career on sound, music, digital health and technology, and their capacity to improve brain health and performance.
His production credits include; co-producer of Music for Healing at the Speed of Sound™, Music for Babies™, and inTime; executive producer, creator, and collaborator on numerous other projects, products, and technologies including; The Listening Program®, BrainBuilder®, Sound Health®, Music for the Mind™, Waves™ multi-sensory audio system, TLP Online, TAVS™ (Test of Auditory and Visual Skills), and the NASA based sleep technology Sleep Genius.
Alex Doman has been interviewed for; NBC, CBS, ABC, MSNBC, Today, NPR Marketplace, Wall Street Journal, Self, Women’s Health, Men’s Health, Fast Company CBS Moneywatch, LiveStrong.com, Health Radio with Dr. Mike Roizen, Dennis Prager, Pia Lindstrom Presents, Blog Talk Radio, ESPN Radio, Hearing Health Magazine, Corebrain Journal, among many others.
Alex Doman has was written for publications and journals including Sound and Listening in Healthcare and Therapy, Autism Research and Treatment, Autism Science Digest, SI Focus Magazine, Autism Asperger’s Digest, and Cutting Edge Therapies for Autism. He is also the host of The Listening Program Radio & Podcast with guests including; David Perlmutter MD, Daniel Siegel MD, Michael Merzenich, PhD, and many other thought leaders.
He lectures internationally and has trained thousands of allied health, education and music professionals in brain-based applications of sound and music; and serves as an advisor to; Sanoson, NeuroPop, Aurora Schools, Autism Brain Storm, and is a Member of the Board of Directors of the Autism Hope Alliance.
Alex Doman has been named as one of the top 50 human behavior experts to watch in 2017.
00:01 Tara Hunkin:
This is My Child Will Thrive and I'm your host, Tara Hunkin, Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, Certified GAPs Practitioner, Restorative Wellness Practitioner, and mother. I'm thrilled to share with you the latest information, tips, resources, and tools to help you on the path to recovery for your child. With ADHD, autism, sensory processing disorder, or learning disabilities.
My own experiences with my daughter combined with as much training as I can get my hands on research I can dig into and conferences I can attend have helped me to develop systems and tools for parents like you who feel overwhelmed, trying to help their children. So sit back as I share another great topic to help you on your journey. A quick disclaimer before we get started.
My Child Will Thrive is not a substitute for working with a qualified healthcare practitioner. The information provided on this podcast is not intended to diagnose or treat your child. Please consult your healthcare practitioner before implementing any information or treatments that you have learned about on this podcast. There are many gifted, passionate, and knowledgeable practitioners with hundreds. If not thousands of hours of study and clinical experience available to help guide you.
Part of our goal is to give you the knowledge and tools you need to effectively advocate for your child so that you don't blindly implement each new treatment that comes along. No one knows your child better than you. No one knows your child's history like you do or can better judge what is normal or abnormal for your child. The greatest success in recovery comes from the parent being informed and asking the right questions and making the best decisions for their child in coordination with a team of qualified practitioners in different areas of specialty.
Today's podcast is sponsored by the Autism, ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder Summit. In order to learn more about summit and to sign up for free, please go to www.mychildwillthrive.com/summit.
2:03 Tara Hunkin:
Hi, I'm Tara Hunkin. Welcome back to the My Child Will Thrive Podcast. I'm excited to bring to you today in its entirety an interview that had previously recorded for the Autism, ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder Summit with Alex
Doman, the founder and CEO of Advanced Brain Technologies, the co-founder of Sleep Genius and the founder and director of The Movement Program. These are all programs and technologies that leverage the power of positive neuroplasticity. It's one of my favorite topics and I wanted to bring this interview, not just to those of you that sign up and watch the summit, but also the listeners here on the podcast.
If you enjoy this interview or others that we've done here on the My Child Thrive Podcast, please take the time to subscribe and review the podcast on your podcast platform of preference. Without further ado, here is the interview with Alex Doman. Today, we're going to speak with Alex Doman. What we're going you're going to learn today from listening to his interview is why sound is important to the early development of the brain,
how sound impacts the autonomic nervous system and why this is a particular importance to autism, ADHD and sensory processing disorders. What symptoms parents can recognize in their kids when they're struggling with dysregulation, inappropriate development and the function of the brain, how the ability to calm the sympathetic response through music will help emotional regulation and sleep. Why improving the child's ability to regulate the autonomic nervous system and the sympathetic response will translate to improvements in other areas of health, such as immune function. We'll also dive into what the listening program is, what it looks like, what symptoms it addresses and what a parent and child can expect if they use a listening program, right down to what ages you start with a program like this.
So I encourage you to listen right to the end! Let's get into the interview. So I want to welcome Alex Doman here. He's the founder of Advanced Brain Technologies and the Listening Program. And Alex, I am thrilled to have you here because the parents are looking for all the different options in terms of good therapies for their children and it's really hard to wade through them, all the options. So I'm hoping you can shed some light on what the listening program does for their kids and why it should be a part of their therapy programs.
4:57 Tara Hunkin:
But first, what I want to do is, sorry to interrupt, I just wanted to have you tell us a little bit about your background. Your family has a deep history in this field, and I just think that it'd be important for everybody to understand where you're coming from.
5:16 Alex Doman:
Thank you so much for the opportunity and yeah, the family background is unique. I myself have been in the field of sound and brain performance coming on 25 years and that's building on the shoulders of my grandfather and his brother and my father and his sister and other family members, three generations and 75 years in the field of child and human brain development. My grandfather and great uncle were two of the pioneers of brain injury rehabilitation starting back in the 1940s and were some of the first proponents of brain plasticity working with their colleague and neurologist, Dr. Temple Fay. And they did extensive research internationally on child development to see how the environment affects a child's natural brain development.
And through the course of that research developed a model called a profile of human development that could be used to evaluate children, to see how they're progressing, and then to develop a very systematized neurodevelopmental program to help organize their brain in areas in which their brain was disorganized. So when I got in the field just coming on 25 years ago, I had joined my father if the National Association for Child Development, his organization where he works with children around the world with special needs and also immense talent and helps their parents to come up with a game plan and very specific methodologies to help their children progress to their greatest potential.
So my interest was in sound and music. I always loved music. I'm not a musician, but I turned into a music producer, ironically of therapeutic programs and I worked with close to 2000 children researching different sound based methodologies to help in their brain development and their emotional development. And through that course discovered some amazing things and really the power of sound to shape the brain, to shape emotion, to influence learning and behavior and it's been my life ever since.
7:44 Tara Hunkin:
That's fantastic. It's amazing how we all come into this field in varied ways. A lot of the people that the practitioners we're going to be talking to over the course of the summit are people that have come into the field because it's affected their families and then obviously yours even goes beyond that in terms of generationally growing up in this field, which is really spectacular. One of the things I wanted to talk to you about today was the science behind the listening program and doing listening therapy. So getting a better understanding of why this type of therapy has such a positive impact on the brain and can retrain the brain to behave in a way that helps the kids function better.
8:32 Alex Doman:
Great question, Tara. I think it's important to set up that we're wired for sound as human beings. One of the first senses to develop in utero is the auditory vestibular system. So the cochlea and the vestibule and 16 to 20 weeks in utero, we are hearing for the first time. So actually hearing in the womb and our first form of learning about our environment is through sound. So sound begins to shape the brain very early in our developmental process.
So the sounds that the child is hearing in the womb, the internal sounds of the mother and themselves, and then the external world are beginning to shape impressions of the world and an early understanding of the environment. So we're wired for sound and 24, 7, 365, we're taking in sound. We don't have ear-lids, so sound is influencing us when we're asleep, our brains monitoring our environment for safety. So we're listening if you will, to see if we're in a safe place. So sound serves as an important survival tool for us.
Our auditory system monitors our environment for safety and that's of course evolved in our modern world. And it's important to also understand that the ear regulates our movement. So our vestibular system, our balance, our coordination, our muscle control. So the ear is a pivotal part of our humanity and our understanding of our world and our ability to respond to our world.
10:20 Alex Doman:
So a program like the listening program, which is a very specific therapeutic music listening therapy, is designed to help the brain recognize the basic foundations of sound, which are frequency, volume or amplitude, temporal aspects, which are time, and then the space around us. So what we do is we take those components within music, right? These are all elements of music composition, and we enhance those natural attributes through the arrangement of the music, the way we have our musicians perform, the recording techniques that we use, and then what we call post-production neuro-acoustic processing that we do to the music to help the brain recognize these components.
We learn through repetition and we've learned through training so this is like a physical exercise, weightlifting for the brain, but for the skill of listening, and as we improve our listening skills, we can then better monitor and respond to our environment and daily life.
11:28 Tara Hunkin:
I find it all so fascinating because when you talk through all those different things and the different aspects of how our hearing and the development of our ear and all the different neural networks that are associated with that, develop over time and all the different functions that are connected to it. I think a lot of parents can hear how that cascade affects their children in terms of all the symptoms that they're seeing around, anything from motor coordination, to the ability to filter noise in a crowded environment and how that all works. Can you maybe explain a little bit around, for example, how children that are very sound sensitive, in terms of just the listening aspect of it in a crowded environment, a lot of parents find that that's a huge trigger for their children and why that's happening for their kids.
12:25 Alex Doman:
Well, yeah, and I think to begin, let's think of our sensory systems. So, our sense of touch, visual input, sound movement, smell, taste are all sensory inputs to the brain. And the brain responds to those sensory inputs based on its ability to understand that incoming information. And we tend to look at it as we perceive these within normal limits or a way of a hyper-responsivity to these inputs or a hypo-responsivity to these inputs.
So if we see an imbalance, then we see what we call sensory processing issues. And one of the common sensory processing issues that we see in a lot of our kids that have learning difficulties or neurodevelopmental challenges is auditory hypersensitivities, and that is sound can become painful or uncomfortable in the environment. So for example, a young child that would hear a dark dog bark, for example, it would be normal for a very young child, the toddler, to startle in response to that unexpected sound coming in. That's normal, developmentally. And over time, they learn to habituate and understand what that information is and the brain says, okay, yeah, I'm safe, I'm not going to worry about that barking dog.
But a lot of kids will retain that when they shouldn't, because what we'll call the sensory gates in the brain remain open when they should be closed and their brain gets flooded with a sensory stimulation and what that can create is a fear response. Even though we can consciously say, I know that dog, that dog is safe, but when that dog barks, I think that it's scary and I'm under threat. And then what happens is that child goes into a fight or flight response.
So in that fight or flight response, they're listening, diminishing their ability to socially engage, to attend, to learn all gets affected and then this begins to generalize to other sounds in other situations. So in fact, the dog doesn't even need the bark. Just the thought that there might be a dog in an environment can begin to trigger these responses in these behaviors in the child.
So then we have an individual that's constantly monitoring their environment for safety, am I safe or am I not safe? And what happens is in this situation, it's very difficult to engage with others, to pay attention, to communicate and to learn, so we begin to see a lot of self-regulation issues and a lot of challenges. So this is becoming a more and more common problem in a lot of our kids, but also out of our adults and you don't even need to have neurodevelopmental or learning issues for this to happen. Many individuals suffer from this.
So it's a matter of putting this back into balance and that's part of what the listening program does, is it conditions the brain to learn that these sounds are safe and it helps to calm the autonomic nervous system so that the stress response is controlled, self-regulation is happening the way that it should be so we no longer have these inappropriate responses to what's happening.
16:01 Alex Doman:
And sometimes it's not obvious, Tara. If a child's sensitive to their environment, they may have emotional reactivity in certain places. So behavior starts to get out of control, they may get really hyperactive in certain environments, or they may actually shut down. So these are all various fight flight responses that we see.
So what we want to do is regulate that system and that's part of what the listening program does. It helps regulate, making these sounds feel safe, helps the autonomic nervous system, keeps things in balance, which then supports self-regulation and sensory integration.
16:42 Tara Hunkin:
Yeah, it's amazing how this type of response the kids have, it ties directly into all the other downstream effects that it has in terms of the constant upregulation of the autonomic nervous system and how that impacts their immune system and many other systems in the body. And I think most parents experience that with their kids in these multi-symptoms, in terms of their kids being sick a lot and having trouble getting their gut function improved and all those things for digestion as well that the kids need to be in a parasympathetic state so a down-regulated state. So it's really interesting to see how that all connects and how something like this and intervening in this way may also assist in healing those other levels as well as we progress with the kids.
17:32 Alex Doman:
Well, and part of that relates to stress hormones, right? So cortisol levels because we have these individuals that are constantly self-monitoring and when we're doing that elevates the stress hormone cortisol. So when cortisol is activated, immune function is suppressed. So when we're constantly in these stress states, then our immune function is really compromised and we're much more susceptible to illness.
18:09 Tara Hunkin:
Yeah, it is such a big issue for so many of the kids. With the listening system itself or the listening program can you just walk us through sort of what that looks like for kids and parents when they come in? How does it work?
18:27 Alex Doman:
Well, let's look at it physically. I actually knew you're going to ask that question so I have a system with me.
18:37 Tara Hunkin:
18:38 Alex Doman:
So we start with headphones. So these are a very specialized pair of headphones, very high end, large headphones that an audio file would use, but there's something unique to them.
And it's this right here which is called a bone conductor. So this bone conductor takes the sound that's going into the left and the right ear cup and then also delivers that vibrationally through the body. And the purpose of this, what we call aaron bone conducted listening, is to help regulate that autonomic nervous system in combination with the listening that we're doing.
So it provides a calming grounding effect, which then makes the therapy more effective as the child is doing it. So this headphone is connected to a specialized amplifier, which regulates that sound, which is connected to a little iPod. And on this iPod are the listening program playlists that the parent would use. And then there's also the ability, we'll just show this quickly, beyond the iPod to use a mobile app that's connected to the cloud.
So this is the app on my iPhone. So you can simply plug the system into the iPhone or into an Android or into a tablet and do the personalized listening therapy. So the child will put the headphones on 15 minutes at a time once or twice a day and this becomes daily hygiene.
So five days a week in the morning or in the evening or before school or after school, we put on the headphones, very simply we turn on the music and we listen. And during the listening, the child can do creative activities, arts and crafts, or simply just relax and enjoy that time and what happens is the music is developmentally organized. So what we're doing with the listening program is we're presenting the brain with a full range of sound frequencies that we need to understand our environment and we start with very gentle therapy, then gradually challenge the brain a little bit more every time that it listens.
20:55 Alex Doman:
So we're exercising that muscle, if you will, of listening. And as we're doing that, we're helping to promote something we call music-induced brain plasticity. So music listening therapy is a means in which to stimulate the plasticity of the brain to develop and to shape it, to support things like our executive functions, auditory processing, communication skills, social-emotional abilities, motor coordination, creative expression, and our response to stress in the environment.
So it's a support for our lower brain centers and our higher levels of brain performance. 15 to 30 minutes a day, five days a week and we go through typically with a child with developmental needs, a hundred hours of training over several months to really shape and change that brain so that we have a permanent effect. So like learning to ride a bike, once we do that, we can get back on and maintain it. Once we develop that daily hygiene, then we can build on the benefits that we initially got in the program in continuous learning. So my seven-year-old son has been listening since he was 12 months old and why?
Well, he's got his foundation of his brain development, but what's happening as he's going through his development and learning, there are new things to learn and to be supported with, as we progress through this program. So the music goes through a different frequency bands. We start in the low frequencies, so think of low tones, low sounds that helps support lower areas of brain development
including motor coordination, so the early stages of neurodevelopment. Then once we help to organize those motor centers and our sensory regulation centers, we move to communication. So we work on receptive listening, expressive language, attention, focus, and communication abilities. Then we progress and work on higher order thinking. So we work on executive functions.
So we're moving through the map of the brain, helping to support the development and organization of different areas over the course of that protocol. And in each 15 minutes session, it's designed to, first of all, very gently introduce sound to the brain and then to gradually increase its complexity and I want you to think of this, like in a row aerobic workout. You're going to do a warmup, you're going to do your high intensity high heart rate training, then you're going to cool back down at the end. So the listening follows what we call an ABC modular designed to work out, warm up, do a workout, and then do a cool-down to help reintegrate after that listening session has been done.
And what you're listening to is very beautiful, original arrangements and recordings in high definition sound delivered in a surround sound in the headphones, something we developed called spacial surround that is beautiful, Mozart, Haydn, Vivaldi. The children can listen to that combined with sounds of nature, soundscapes with beautiful birds that are interplaying with the music or with water. And then we also have a version of the listening program called in time, which is world music and it's rhythmically based with a lot of percussion. So we have the combination of classical music and then percussive world music with rhythm.
24:33 Tara Hunkin:
Is there a particular thing that you're working on with two different types of music?
24:40 Alex Doman:
Absolutely. So it depends on what our primary objectives are. We've been working in the classical genre since the beginning of the listening program in 1999. And our therapists that providers work with families to administer the program, this can be done at home or done in a clinical setting or in a school, but a trained provider works with the family, helps them choose the protocol, guides them and coaches them as they're doing the program, keeps them on track, helps them do the appropriate activities during listening, and to make sure that this fits in well with their overall therapeutic program that they have.
And what we've learned from the providers over the years is that they wanted something that also had a strong, rhythmic base to it. So a lot of our kids have timing, coordination issues, and the synchrony within the brain, the synching of time mechanisms, which are responsible for so much of our neurological function can be stimulated with rhythm.
So we actually worked with a great musician, Nacho Arimany, who was a musical prodigy as a child, voice and piano, and went into percussion, flamenco percussion. And he along with a colleague and occupational therapist, Sheila Allen and I spent many years developing this in time method to give a rhythmically based listening therapy for the first time that would use very strong rhythms in order to influence neurological development and to give some variety for a lot of our clients, frankly, that have been doing the classical music for a long time.
26:25 Tara Hunkin:
That's fascinating. So do you find that, so that stair-step through the program, is it sort of slid into different aspects of the classical music or is it very customized depending on the child and as they progress?
26:40 Alex Doman:
Very customized. What we'll generally do is start with the classically based listening program then progress to in time rhythms. We're now doing cross training where we'll alternate sessions between the classical and the rhythmic music.
So we're clinically working with a lot of different models that are being shaped to the child's unique needs and the more experienced the provider is, the more they know how to use the music and shape those protocols.
27:10 Tara Hunkin:
Oh, that's fantastic. It's great to see this continuing to evolve. We know that things are changing rapidly in terms of the science that's coming out there and I know that you've been doing some research and review. Is there any particular research that you would direct parents to take a look at so they could do some reading on their own?
27:37 Alex Doman:
Well, that's a big wide open field, so how deep do you want to go? At a starting level, a few years ago, I worked with my colleague, Don Campbell, and wrote a book called Healing at the Speed of Sound. We spent three years amassing research. We had 10,000 references and organized them in an accessible book that people can read. It'll take you from birth to the end of life, to sound and music in the classroom, in the workplace, in our commute. And what that will do is summarize the research in a very accessible means through that literature so that's a good starting point.
At our website, research on the listening program specifically is there. And then for those that want to do a deep dive, what I say is go to Google Scholar, Google has a specialized search engine for academic articles. You go de-select patents because they'll include patents in addition to research and then type in terms like music in the brain. Yeah. "Music and autonomic nervous system" "music and hypersensitivity to sound" And what that will pull up are the research articles and parents can start with abstracts to review that if they wish to do a deep dive.
28:59 Tara Hunkin:
Yes. Well, there's always a few of us out there that just can't help, but end up on Google scholar. So it's nice to have some direction in that regard. When you start this program with your child, are you able to set out expectations in terms of how long things take and what types of results should they be looking for in terms of to see if they feel it's working for their child? Because I know some of these things take awhile and we tend to jump the gun in terms of wanting results right away, so what should their expectations be?
29:40 Alex Doman:
Well, first of all, each child is unique and is going to respond to any therapy differently and I think it's important to recognize that. So that's our starting point. Second is what are the goals for the child? So we should align our expectations along with the goals for the program, which is part of what our providers do. We actually have intake processes, behavioral checklists, and goals for different areas of life in which we kind of look at what we are looking for in our expectations for the program in line with those goals. Yes or no.
And what else are we doing to work toward these goals? I think too often we look for that magic pill or that magic drink, magic whatever, the fairy dust that is going to suddenly take my child from A to Z and it just doesn't work that way and we know that - each child is a unique puzzle. But after 19 years of the listening program, we have reasonable expectations for moderate or greater success with the completion of a 50 hour protocol to a 100 hour protocol with most children. Some kids, the first time that these headphones go on, we see spontaneous responses that we could never predict or expect.
Other kids, we're two months into the program before we begin to see something shape or form. The important expectation and what we've learned through the research is most research studies on the listening program have only looked at a short form protocol, which would be 25 hours and they look for results before and after and midpoint. And what we tend to see is the child progresses through the program, the responses improve and improve and improve. And then we look at post intervention three months, six months, a year out to see if those trends continued, or if they've fallen off and if we lost the response.
And what we consistently see is over time, as the integration occurs with this therapy, the results improve even post intervention. So we are in a marathon, not in a sprint with our kids. So if we're looking for that instantaneous, something's going to change, we don't want to explore listening therapy. We need to invest the time and do it right, because this is for long-term change. In terms of what we can expect to see if we have executive function issues. We expect to support improvements in executive function.
32:26 Alex Doman:
So for example, we'll look at the different therapists that work with the program, about 60% of the providers are occupational therapists. So they are using the listening program as an adjunct to occupational therapy, generally to improve sensory integration or sensory function, so we'd expect those areas to improve in response with the intervention. Speech and language pathologists that are using this for receptive and expressive language skills.
We're going to look for those skills to improve in conjunction with what they're doing with speech therapy. If children are struggling with reading and working with the reading therapist, this is going to support the reading therapy. Motor coordination skills, we have athletes that will use the program to improve their motor performance or their sense of timing. Musicians to enhance their musical abilities. So think of it as a tool kit that you're going to use to either really fine tune, shape, form, and then fine tune different areas in your life.
33:34 Tara Hunkin:
Yeah. And I think that that's one of the key things when parents are looking at new interventions for their kids and setting appropriate expectations. But like I said before, when you're explaining the science behind this, I think one of the really interesting things is that a lot of what you're talking about is looking at the results directly impacting certain functions from the listening program. But I think there could be a lot of additional ancillary impacts on the overall functional health of the child as well, which could be very important to their progress.
34:15 Alex Doman:
Yeah, if you'd indulge me for a minute.
34:16 Tara Hunkin:
34:17 Alex Doman:
I wanted to find this amazing story and I just want to share it if I can. We got this two days ago, and this relates to something that we did to a sleep therapy called Sleep Genius, which is part of the work that we do at Advanced Brain Technologies. So this was a note to my wife who runs Advanced Brain with me and says,
"Hi, Mandy, I wanted to give you a super quick update. Our boys have been using Sleep Genius for almost two weeks and so this is our timing. During that time, we've moved out of our house in the US, spent a night crammed into a single hotel room. There were six of us in two beds. We flew to Australia, stayed at my parents' house with my siblings and their families, had all the chaos of a house sale, remodel, family wedding, and VISA process for England. We could not have chosen a worse time to try out the program. The kids have been so overwhelmed, anxious, and all the things kids on the spectrum (these kids have autism, they're on the autism spectrum) that they would feel going through intense change to their routine and security.
And yet, thanks to your brilliant program, they've fallen asleep within 10 to 30 minutes every time they've worn the headphones. It's been amazing. I was expecting it would take weeks to see the results, but the first night went from three hours to fall asleep to one. And by the third night, it was around 30 minutes and it has fallen from there. I do wonder if it was the program or the crazy schedule that was making them fall asleep so quickly, but a week ago they were babysat by a family member who forgot to put the headphones on the kids and they were both still awake and stressed hours later when we got home. So thank you, we're impressed with your system, rearranging as much of our budget as possible to do the listening program spectrum before we move to England."
And the end, which I love is, "I cannot tell you how lovely it was to see my oldest boy given hope. There is something that would work to help him. After four years of trying every sleep hygiene intervention we could find, he was very skeptical this would work, but he's now a convert and has been asking about your other programs and how they would work for him."
36:45 Tara Hunkin:
That is fantastic.
36:46 Alex Doman:
These are the stories that drive us. And they're not all like this, but I think that it's important that we have hope for a better life and a better quality of life for our kids. And ultimately that's what this work is about. We have something safe, something non-invasive, something enjoyable that can become a routine for our life and support us at different ages and stages.
37:18 Tara Hunkin:
Yeah, that is such a fantastic testimony. I know that you said that that was your other newer program, the Sleep Genius, but is that in that particular instance, I'm assuming they started there because sleep was one of their biggest challenges.
37:36 Alex Doman:
Yeah. And that's often, we look at our populations, sleep tends to be sleep and stress regulation, the two biggies. And if we don't have good sleep, I don't care what we're doing, it's not going to be as effective until we get the sleep regulated.
37:52 Tara Hunkin:
So it's so true. And it's amazing the sleep aspect for the parents in terms of self care, it's a huge component as well. Their kids aren't sleeping, so they're not sleeping and it just really impacts the health of the whole family.
So it's fabulous to hear of an intervention like this because I know many, many parents who've tried just about everything to get their kids to sleep and being it a biomedical or as you said, sleep hygiene routines, and nothing seems to work consistently, so that's certainly gives a lot of hope to a lot of people. Well, that is fantastic.
So you have talked a bit about the different practitioners, I know you have a very extensive training program that your providers go through. Maybe you can talk to that so people can understand the rigor that practitioners have to go through to be able to deliver this type of program to the kids.
38:52 Alex Doman:
When we first developed the listening program, we had to make a decision if we would put this directly in the parent's hand to self administer or put it in the hands of the professionals that they're working with. And we believe we really struck a balance in creating a program that as a mom, Tara, you could open the box and follow and do no harm and help your child, right?
And to design a system that works and can be replicated over and over again. Also important for research and efficacy that we have standardized protocols and a structure and a logic to it that can be followed. And we felt as professionals working with families and they have some different access and different perspectives that their support and the accountability to them is going to help with better program outcomes ultimately.
So it becomes a partnership of parents and professionals working together or adults, we have adult listeners working with their therapist as well or their coach. So the practitioners that we train are generally licensed healthcare professionals or educators that are physicians, they are chiropractors, they are occupational and speech therapists, audiologists, psychologists of different disciplines.
And then we work with people that may not have the academic credential, but they have done the training and the work and become an expert at what they do in which we can really compliment this with what they're doing as well in applying with certain populations of individuals. For example, we're working with life coaches now that are supporting people in their personal development, music listening for that with their specialized area. So what we do is we have a certification program for the practitioner.
So they go through training, different training formats. We do live training courses internationally. We do online training that's on demand that they follow and go through a self administered or live webinars. And our faculty are licensed therapists that are deeply experienced in these programs, practice with these on a daily basis so they're taught by their peers and they go through the training, they go through an examination process and then are expected to do their own listening and work with their own family before they begin working with their clients, with the programs. And then we have ongoing professional development training and support for the practitioners.
So we have a team here at Advanced Brain Technologies that simply interfaces with the providers on a daily basis to help them with their clients as well. So it's something that is a commitment and it takes their time and investment to bring this method into their practice and we really want those that are going to take it seriously and do the right thing by their clients in offering a listening program.
42:05 Tara Hunkin:
That's fantastic. So how do parents find a practitioner in their area that they can work with?
42:12 Alex Doman:
The best thing to do is go to the advancedbrain.com website. So advancedbrain.com and there is a "Getting Started" section under families. So in getting started, they can contact us directly for a referral or to get our provider directory, but what we do really recommend is they contact us so we can match the right provider to their needs. There are over 8,000 providers trained in 40 countries now worldwide, so the programs are widely available.
And if there is not a provider in their immediate area, that's okay because we do a lot of tele-coaching now. So we have providers that will use this format to work with families, train them how to use the equipment and then to meet with them on a regular basis as they're doing this at home.
43:03 Tara Hunkin:
That's fantastic because one of the big challenges is that a lot of parents can't find a practitioner that works in a particular area in where they live and it limits their options, so it's fantastic that technology has caught up with this and you've been able to set it up that way. And in terms of how often do they have to interact with their practitioner to adjust their program?
43:28 Alex Doman:
So if somebody is strictly doing the listening program without another therapeutic intervention with that practitioner, what we do is recommend they do about a 90 minute initial intake interview and training process.
Then they'll meet in a week, they'll follow their regime, meet in a week, do an update check in for about 30 minutes and they'll do that weekly for the first month as you're getting oriented and familiar with the program. Then we move to every two weeks for the next two months, then generally a monthly check-in after that.
Once we're really used to doing the program and then email support in between. Now, if somebody is going to say their OT or their speech therapist or their educational therapist, and they're seeing them two, three times a week, they're just checking in at their therapeutic appointments as they're doing their program back at home. So it just depends on whether they're seeing them for other therapeutic services or just dedicated to the program specifically.
44:35 Tara Hunkin:
That's great. Well, I have to tell you, this has been fantastic because I think that there's some just fantastic work in a lot of different areas of neuroplasticity, but what we like to see is things that are very practical and easy for the parents to do with their kids and integrate into their daily routine. I know that some parents will probably wonder whether or not their kids will put a set of headphones on, but I think like a lot of things that once they give it a try, they'd be surprised at how the kids jump on board.
45:10 Alex Doman:
Well, our kids will meet our expectations. So if we expect they won't, we may realize that reality. So we always just say, have fun with it. The headphones, we'll have the parents model wearing the headphones around and not say anything about them or siblings. With really young kids, we may stick the headphones on their favorite stuffed animal in their bedroom on their bed and just model positivity, fun, kids get curious, and they'll put them on themselves.
And what we learned with bone conduction in particular, I've got a good friend and she lets me tell her story. Kristin Selby Gonzalez, who's the chairman of Autism Hope Alliance, your friend and her son Jackson, when we were first looking at doing TLP with them many, many, many years ago, she said no way, Jackson's going to wear these headphones. I said, Kristin, just trust me. He's going to melt into these. And he's a really sensory sensitive kid, reactive at that time, put them on, and he just melted into the headphones. And to this day, it is what he seeks. It is his safe place and he knows exactly what he needs to listen to when, so now he self monitors his own program. So our kids will meet our expectations and often exceed them, we just need to give them the opportunity.
46:37 Tara Hunkin:
Yeah. Well, on that note, I think I'd like to just thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it and look forward to continuing the conversation over time. I know that you're always doing something new and exciting, so hope to talk to you about your further work sometime soon.
46:56 Alex Doman:
Thanks so much.
46:57 Tara Hunkin:
Excellent. So that's a wrap. Thanks for joining me this week on My Child Will Thrive. I'm so passionate about giving you the tools and information you need to help your child recover.
And as they say, it takes a village. So join us in the My Child Will Thrive village Facebook group, where you can meet like-minded parents and stay up to date on everything we have going on at My Child Will Thrive. This is Tara Hunkin and I'll catch you on the next podcast or over at My Child Will Thrive dot com.
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