'Vestibular Development
Sveti Saint-Tomaz
Vestibular Development

Spectrum Center Method
By Valerie Dejean, Director, Spectrum Tomatis Center

The Spectrum Center uses the Tomatis Method of “auditory training” or “listening training” in conjunction with sensory integration techniques to treat a spectrum of disorders, including the following:

• Vestibular Development
• Motor Planning
• Coordination related to Sports
• Body Mapping
• Attention Deficit Disorders
• Auditory Processing Disorders
• Autism
• Developmental Disorders
• Dyslexia
• Dyspraxia (Motor Planning Disorders)
• Learning Disabilities
• Pervasive Developmental Disorder
• Sensory Integration Disorders
• Speech and Language Disorders
• Alzheimer's Dementia
• Asperger's Syndrome

We look at the individuals we treat from the perspective of a developmental model that incorporates the theories of Dr. Alfred Tomatis and Dr. A. Jean Ayres (the developer of sensory integration theory). This view presupposes that many of the behaviors observed are not the causes of the disorder, but rather are symptoms based upon an underlying “biologically based” condition. The focus of the treatment is aimed at the sensory systems involved in the individual’s ability to self-regulate and respond adaptively to the external world. There are many studies indicating that sensory deprivation can result in delayed or atypical development. It is theorized that the central nervous systems of individuals with the disorders listed above do not properly perceive, process and organize sensory information from their bodies and their environment. Therefore, they are not able to respond adaptively or perform optimally.

Listening training is based on the work of Dr. Alfred A. Tomatis, a French Physician and Otolaryngologist, who discovered that “a person can only reproduce vocally what he is capable of hearing.” The Tomatis Method of Listening Training reeducates the ear to hear missing or faulty frequencies. Tomatis recognizes a critical difference between hearing and listening, and the method addresses the specific problems of listening, not hearing. Hearing is the passive reception of sound; listening is the active ability, intention, and desire to focus on sounds. Many individuals with listening disorders are unable to attend to, focus on, or efficiently process what is being said.

After his discoveries about the relationship between the ear and the voice, Tomatis went on to research the role (which he called “listening”) that the ear plays in the development of speech and language. Tomatis emphasized that the functions of the human ear far exceed those traditionally assigned to it � “it serves as the centralizing, controlling organ of neurological function.” He believed that the Corti cells of the inner ear play a primary role in the evolution of the human nervous system. He asserted that this extensive network of connections is still present in humans today and “allows the ‘ear’ to contribute to everything involved in cortical activity.”

Dr. A Jean Ayres, an Occupational Therapist and specialist in learning and education, came to her understanding of the importance of the “ear” in human development in a different manner. Her early research was on visual perception and the role it plays in learning and reading. She found that visual perception is dependent on the integration of sensory information from even more primary senses, particularly sensory information from the vestibular system located in the inner ear. Sensory Integration Theory is based on the premise that the primary building blocks of the central nervous system are the senses, particularly the special senses � vestibular, tactile, and proprioception. All other skills are complex processes based on a strong foundation of sensory integration.

The theories that both Tomatis and Ayres developed to explain what they were discovering through their research bear uncanny similarities. Both Sensory Integration Therapy and The Tomatis Method of Listening Training employ stimulation to the inner ear�the vestibular cochlear system�as their “portal” into the nervous system. Both realized that the inner ear plays a much greater role developmentally than merely as a mechanism for balance (vestibule) and hearing (cochlear). They discovered that the ear plays a major role in the development of postural functions, bilateral coordination, inter-hemispheric communication, motor planning, visual perception, and language. Ayres primarily used “movement” as her method for stimulating the inner ear’s vestibular system, while Tomatis used sound (music) to stimulate the cochlea. Ayres noticed early in her work that while she saw the changes she expected in postural and spatial functions, she also saw improvement in auditory processing and language. Tomatis similarly noted that while he saw changes in auditory processing and language, he also saw changes in postural and spatial functions. To explain their findings both examined the influences the inner ear has on the development of the human nervous system and the various functions the ear controls.
The initial impetus for the Spectrum Center Method came from its director Valerie Dejean, a pediatric Occupational Therapist who was trained in Sensory Integration theory and therapy. She observed in several of her clients, who had received the Tomatis Listening Training, dramatic improvements in posture and balance following their sessions. At that time, though well known in Europe (200 centers world wide), the Tomatis Method was relatively unknown in the United States. Although Dr. Tomatis was well published in his own language of French, very little of his writings had been translated into English. Feeling strongly that the Tomatis Method was a way to enhance sensory integration, Ms. Dejean trained with Dr. Tomatis in Paris, and opened the Spectrum Center on June 15th, 1992.

The objective of the Spectrum Center Method is the therapeutic application of sensory stimulation programs, with the Tomatis Method as the corner stone, for the improvement of physical, cognitive, and social-emotional performance. At the Spectrum Center we use a specialized form of Tomatis Listening Training, which we imbed in a developmental model of treatment and enhance with sensory integration techniques. Our developmental model includes an in-depth understanding of the following functions: posture, balance, motor planning, praxis, bilateral coordination, inter-hemispheric communication, visual and auditory processing. Over the ten years that the Spectrum Center has been in operation, we have studied how these functions are involved in the disorders listed above. From this clinical observation we have developed our own protocols for evaluation and implementation of our listening programs. This we refer to as the Spectrum Center Method.

As a matter of inquiry, we are often asked what we do differently at the Spectrum Center, from other centers that utilize the Tomatis Method. World wide the Tomatis Method is used with a variety of populations ranging from developmental disabilities to foreign language acquisition and the performing arts. At the Spectrum Center we focus on the specific sensory integration and processing difficulties that we perceive as the root of many developmental, learning and attention disabilities. Our initial evaluation is different from other Centers as we focus in-depth on these fundamentals. How we design our listening programs, what tapes will be listened to, and how the “electronic ears” are set, are different. The activities a client engages in while listening are also very different. We incorporate movement activities to provide vestibular support for the auditory stimulation as the client is listening. We have a variety of suspended equipment (swings) and balance activities to provide additional inner ear stimulation. We also include activities to stimulate postural functions, motor planning, praxis, bilateral-motor coordination, and inter-hemispheric communication. We include tactile activities because stimulation to the skin has a primary impact on inner ear processes. We include visual processing, fine motor, sequencing, oral-motor, and language activities. In addition to Tomatis audio-vocal work, we include additional auditory processing activities. All of these are designed to the specific needs of the client. Although there may be similarities in the progression of our programs, each program is individualized according to the specific needs of the client.

The combination of Tomatis Method auditory stimulation and sensory integration therapy is unique to the Spectrum Center and has had phenomenal results. The commonality between the theories has been born out by what we observe in our clients on a daily basis. For example, if during our evaluation we see difficulty in using the two sides of the body in a coordinated manner, we will then be very likely to see difficulty in sharing information between the two ears. Both Dr. Tomatis and Dr. Ayres talked about the role that the inner ear plays in inter-hemispheric communication, and our observations confirm this in both body processing and auditory processing. This comprehensive approach allows us to more specifically target/design our treatment plans and thus, provides the most appropriate and effective therapy. This observation and others like it have highlighted many areas for further research. The first ten years of the Spectrum Center have been the start-up and development of a successful program. We look forward to the next ten years as a time for improving and validating through research, all that we have been learning.

Quod Erit Demonstrandum Valerie Dejean 2010


Vestibular  Developmental Integration