Frequently Asked Questions:
Can you explain to my readers what sensory processing issues (Sensory Processing Disorder) are?
Just like all other animals, humans experience the environment through their senses. We hear, see, feel, taste, touch and smell. It can be said in fact, that we LIVE in a world of our sensations and neurological responses.
In a neuro-typical individual, our sensations fall within a range considered “normal”, that allow us to agree with each other regarding our world. We can agree that “red” is red and “blue” is blue, when I cannot experience your red or blue any more than you can experience my red or blue. We can also agree that loud is loud, hot is hot, cold is cold and so on.
What we may not realize is that our “normal” perception is very limited. We can only see a narrow spectrum of electromagnetic radiation and hear a narrow range of acoustic vibrations as “sound”. Our senses of touch, taste and smell are also limited compared to some other species. But because we all agree on the effects of light, sound, touch, taste and smell we can all exist together in the same sensory environment.
However, when a person experiences a brain insult, sensory processing can become aberrant, resulting in hypo (lowered) sensitivity or hyper (increased or un-habituated) sensitivity.
Hypo sensitivity is easy to understand. We become blind or deaf, unable to walk or to feel, taste or smell. These conditions are clearly seen as deficits in an individual. We see the blind person as missing a key way of interfacing with the world and as such, at a disadvantage.
It is hyper-sensitivity that is confusing. Given the fantasy, comic book mystique of the, “super human” individual gifted with bionic hearing or sight, it is hard for the typical person to understand that having hypersensitive hearing or sight, taste, touch or smell might also be a serious disadvantage to an individual. However, that is exactly the case. Light can be blinding, sound deafening, a light touch can feel like a burn, a taste awful, a texture disgusting and a smell obnoxious.
Sensory Processing Disorder is a name given to a wide range of these aberrant sensory responses to the neurological process that renowned PhD Jean Ayres originally called Sensory Integration.
Do you mainly deal with visual and audio processing?
I have been interested in children experiencing auditory hypersensitivity since the early 1980’s, and created the first listening therapy CDs, (Electronic Auditory Stimulation effect or EASe music) in the mid 90’s. I created the first serious video games to attempt to integrate a virtual visual/vestibular environment with auditory stimulation (EASe Games) in 2007.
Can you give an example of how a child with visual or audio processing issues is affected?
A child with auditory hypersensitivity will experience an un-habituated response or reflex to noise sources that neuro-typical individuals would have normally habituated (adjusted) to by their age. It is like the child is experiencing a startle reflex over and over and over again. Imagine how difficult life would be (and is for the child) if every time you heard the refrigerator turn on, you startled at the sound. It is an extremely frustrating and exhausting experience.
As a result, some children try to control their environment by overpowering external sources of light or noise with their own, internal stimulation. This results in the familiar self stimulation or “stimming” that we see. This can involve hand waving, hand biting, slapping, screaming and tantrum throwing, in a desperate attempt to block out the dangerous and offensive world of noise, light, touch, taste and smell.
Another way to control the world is to become sensory defensive and shut down. The sensory defensive child appears deaf, or uncommunicative, in their own world at times, and then when they lose control, hyper-responsive at other times. Sometimes it is particular frequencies of light or sounds that trigger the loss of control and the outbursts. This condition is typical in children on the autism spectrum and a conundrum to parents.
What can be done to help children with these issues?
This is a question that is deeper than the scope of this interview, so I will just speak about what we at Vision Play attempt to do for these children.
Since the conditions exampled above are neurological conditions, it is important to access the brain through the senses, and to assist the child to habituate to light, sound, touch, taste and smell. Our work lies primarily in the auditory realm, and recently in attempts to help children with balance and proprioceptive issues through the visual/vestibular/auditory triad.
It has been shown through many different university studies, that the brain grows connections between neurons in response to external stimulation. We believe that in the hypersensitive child, the brain has not grown enough appropriate connections to facilitate typical habituation to sensory information, and if old enough, may even have developed the unhealthy defensive responses that I described above, as a coping mechanism.
It is our goal with EASe music, video game and voice therapeutic tools, to expose the child to high intensity stimulus to help the brain grow neurological connections, but do so in short enough durations, to avoid triggering a flight or flight response. In other words, to spoon feed stimulus to the brain without triggering a defensive response. In that way, the in-game environment assists a child’s brain to cope with real world sensory information.
EASe audio consists of music encoded through a Berard AIT modulation system comprised of a system of filters and detectors. The majority of the time, the music is low pass filtered, resulting in a soft, muted tone. Then randomly, the low pass filter and a second high frequency boost circuit engage together and for a short duration, typically well under 300ms, the sound becomes extremely bright and sharp. Then just as quickly as it came, the sound returns to the original, muted tone. The dynamic range of sounds above 3000hz is in the 90db range, requiring most or all of the dynamic range of a 16 bit 44.1 compact disc playback system and a high quality pair of headphones.
EASe games visuals are deceivingly simple. All of the EASe games are either driving or flying games. This is primarily to create a continuous challenge to a child’s sense of balance and spatial orientation within the game world. The horizon is constantly bouncing up and down and tilting left and right, and the child is required to respond appropriately while controlling the vehicle. This is a virtual vestibular environment. Therapists looking over the shoulder of their patients, report more often than not, feeling a bit dizzy watching the game. This effect is intended. As the child plays the game, their brain is adjusting and responding to and learning from vestibular challenges that will carry over in the real world when they are walking, running and riding in a car.
In addition to the virtual vestibular environment, the EASe game worlds all have some kind of challenge to the child’s visual focus and concentration. This can be in the form of foliage, smoke or clouds flying at the vehicle while the child attempts to concentrate on objects in the far field, like targets or treasures. It can also be in the design of the world itself with lots of colors, shapes, flying balls, ramps and more.
The other reason for the flying and driving games is to make the EASe games FUN! Our products will be most effective when the child willingly participates in their own therapy, so we empower the child by putting them in a vehicle in the game world, that they would have no chance of being able to operate in the real world.
And finally, EASe Funhouse and soon EASe Off Road treasure hunt, include an educational element In the form of a treasure hunt. In these games, the child is presented with a visual list of objects at the top of the screen in a heads up display (HUD). The currently desired object (for example a green apple) is enlarged relative to the others, while a soothing female voice instructs the player to “Find the green apple”. When the player drives around, finds and then tags the green apple, the voice exclaims, “Green apple! You are so good at this!” while the green apple flies to center screen. If the player tags a purple pyramid instead, the voice says, “That was a purple pyramid. Find the green apple”. In that way the game provides the learning component as a pure gift, and not a test of what the child does or does not know. We do not judge the child, but do provide the child with constant challenges.
All in all, the child has a game to play that is clearly designed just for them, the music is therapeutically soothing to a hypersensitive child, the challenges are surmountable and the results are hopefully positive.
I am a Therapeutic Listening trained therapist. Can I lend EASe CDs to my clients?
How many times should my child listen to the EASe CDs per day
Can I let my child listen while asleep?
My child cannot stand to wear headphones. Can my child listen to EASe CDs with different method than headphones?
Which EASe CD should I purchase?
If you are sure your child is auditory hypersensitive, (outward signs are covering ears, crying at sounds, avoiding loud environments, etc) or a diagnosis, we recommend that you buy as many EASe CDs as you can afford and start your listening program right away. Each CD can be listened to for a maximum of ten hours, and longer programs are more effective than shorter ones. In this way, you will give your child the maximum variability in their listening sessions and the best chance for success.
If you are not sure your child is auditory hypersensitive, (sometimes children become auditory defensive and appear more deaf than hypersensitive, but this IS auditory hypersensitivity) then just purchase EASe CD #1 and give it a try for the ten hours. If you see positive results (eye contact, communication, reduced stimming, better attention, improved calmness) then start a longer program immediately.
Should I play the EASe CDs in order every time?
Should I play each song in order?
Do you have recommendations regarding using headphones for
Can I put the EASe CD on my ipod?
However, as it is possible, if you do it right to get an iPod to play truly uncompressed .wav files, I will go through the procedure for proper transfer.
Transferring (not encoding) uncompressed .wav files into iTunes requires that you set up the iTunes preferences BEFORE transfer not AFTER. This has tripped up many, many parents to the point that I just suggest that they not attempt it.
First however, lets talk about quality and lossless and lossy compression like MP3, AAC and others. There are NO compression algorithms of high quality enough to compress the data on an EASe CD!
Please understand this point.
ALL compression algorithms are sensory based. Their developers create them by testing the perception of average people and determining what elements of sound are NOT perceived under certain circumstances and which are, and then throwing away the elements that are not perceived.
Brain injured children afflicted with auditory hypersensitivity DO NOT exhibit the same perception profiles as neurological typical individuals. The highest frequency elements in an EASe CD are the MOST valuable and above a fairly low ceiling cannot be heard by most NT's. EASe CDs use ALL the energy, dynamic range and frequency response of the 16bit, 44.1kHz audio CD format. Only an uncompressed transfer of the .wav files will work for your children.
If you insist on using your iPod, DO NOT use the iPod ear buds. They will not work with EASe CDs. They just don't have the high frequency response necessary. Almost all of the other ear buds will fail as well. Use Sony 7506 or better headphones.
A stereo .wav file takes approximately 10 MB per minute of hard drive space, making a singe EASe CD approximately 650 MB. This means that a parent will need at least an 8Gig iPod Nano to hold all 11 EASe CDs. This is fine, but at $250.00, the 8Gig Nano is about four times more expensive than a CD player and there will be much less space for all the other music a parent may want to put on their iPod. It could also take you as long as five hours to transfer the dozens of EASe CD tracks to iTunes and then over to the iPod.
If you still want to put the files on your iPod then continue reading.
Start iTunes. BEFORE attempting to import the files, click on the iTunes tab and then scroll down to Preferences. Click on the Importing tab. Select WAV Encoder on the Import Using tab. Next click on the Setting tab and select Custom. Set the Sample Rate to 44.100 kHz, the Sample Size to 16 bit and Channels to Stereo. Click OK. Click OK in the bottom right corner of the panel. You can then click on Advanced and scroll down to Convert Selection to WAV. Once that is done you can then transfer the .wav file to your iPod.
DO NOT succumb to the idea that a little compression will be ok! Apple calls AAC lossless audio compression. This is just not true. Any compression will cripple the effectiveness of the EASe CDs and their ability to help your child.
The EASe CD is designed to chip away at the sensory wall these children build up over the years, by introducing high intensity, low duration auditory stimulation. When this stimulation starts to become effective, the children start to loose control of their sensory diet. This is a good thing, but can be temporarily disturbing to a small percentage of children. However, if we don’t bring down that wall, they will never escape from their prison.
If your child becomes temporarily more sensitive to noise after listening to the EASe CDs, do not stop. Just reduce the volume and session duration, to make the transition easier on your child. Eventually, nearly every child works through this stage and learns to properly manage their sensory diet without blocking everything out.
Can EASe CDs help adult hearing loss?
If the CDs are used for a 'normal' kid, no special problem, would listening to the CDs create any adverse effect to him?
What is the lead time required for receiving the CD in HK after placing order in the web? Or any customer in HK?
This weekend, we went to a restaurant and it was VERY loud, a waiter dropped a whole tray and it was so loud, it really scared my daughter. Now, she is terrified to go back there. Another time, we were at a Home Depot and a whole cart of lumber fell and it was extremely loud. Now, my daughter is scared to go back to Home Depot! I really want to get her help for her noise sensitivity.
How much music/sound is on each CD?
My child has problems with consonants. She can start words with 'd', 'b' and 'ou', but she can't at all say words beginning with 'c/k' or 'g'. It doesn't seem that she is not hearing these words (although I could be wrong), she looks as though she is trying really hard to say them but she can't. She often will get the number of syllables correct but not the pronunciation.
First, remember that sound is a temporal event. That means that a word has a beginning, a middle after the beginning and an end after the middle.
Now imagine that you are hearing sound through window blinds. Longer sounds make it through the cracks between the blinds, and are only partially blocked. However a shorter sound can be blocked entirely by a single blind and not heard at all. The short sounds are consonants and the longer sounds are vowels. This is why Hannah cannot recreate some consonants reliably. She did not hear them in the first place. The reason she did not hear them is because her auditory perception system (auditory cortex) is running slower than it is supposed to. She is constantly playing catch up to sound, perceiving bits and pieces instead of the entire event.
If you miss visual detail in an object, you can just look at it for a longer period. However the temporal event of sound is here and gone and does not give you the opportunity to examine it further. You must either get it in real time, or not get it.
There are a few things that can be done. First her neurological health is of utmost importance. This means that she should get enough oxygen, through regular aerobic activity. She should receive a great diet, with lots of fresh food. She should get enough sleep. For her, the difference between being fresh and tired is the difference between being more able to understand her world and being a lost outsider, unable to understand the things around her.
Her acoustic environment is also important. Reverberant environments tend to slur consonants with early reflections, making it hard to understand language. This is the same situation for everyone, however it is critical for Hannah because she is disposed to not understanding everything she hears. If you have a big home with high ceilings, you might consider putting rugs on the floors and acoustic tiles on the ceilings. Anything you can do to absorb reverberation in her environment will help her understand better. This is the same for her classroom at school. This is a huge problem for many thousands of kids who are labeled ADD, but who just can't hear in a typical classroom.
I would also suggest that in addition to the EASe CDs (I hope you have the whole set for her) that you look into the computer program Fast Forward. If she is able to complete the course, it may be helpful. It is designed just for her problem and may be offered by her school.
What form of payment does Vision Play accept?
What is the lead time required for receiving the CD in HK after placing order in the web? Or any customer in HK?
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