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THE BERARD METHOD OF AUDITORY INTEGRATION TRAINING
By Sally Brockett, M.S., Educational Consultant

Auditory integration training (AIT) was introduced in the United States in 1990 following the publication of The Sound of a Miracle, Annabel Stehli's story about her autistic daughter. AIT is an intervention that is used with individuals who have difficulty with auditory perception, discrimination, processing, and hyper or hyposensitivity to sounds. These problems often result in learning, social and behavioral concerns such as poor attention and memory, inability to follow directions, slow processing and delayed response time, poor comprehension, difficulty understanding social cues, and inappropriate affect and interaction. These characteristics are often associated with individuals who have learning and/or developmental disabilities.

Dr. Guy Berard developed AIT as a procedure to retrain a disorganized auditory system that prohibits the efficient processing of information. AIT is relatively quick to administer, readily accepted by the individual, and requires minimum follow-up by other professionals. Berard AIT has important relevance to parents and educators of young children because the focus of this intervention is on retraining the system to improve its performance rather than teaching compensating strategies to help children manage better with an inefficient system. By improving the performance of the auditory processing system, individuals benefit more from the support services provided and their rate of progress is increased.

Dr. Berard believes that hypersensitivity; distortions and delays in the auditory signals contribute to inefficient learning. He states that AIT is a method of retraining the ear to listen and to process sounds in a more normal manner, without distortions and delays. How we listen and process sounds affects our alertness, attention span, concentration, information processing, and the way we express ourselves, both verbally and in writing. When the listening process is not working properly, it can interfere with our entire system and its ability to function.

According to Dr. Berard, auditory hypersensitivity and lack of coordination between the two ears are conditions frequently seen in people who have these listening problems. When hypersensitivity is present, certain sounds are heard with much more intensity than other sounds. This can cause pain, discomfort, or distractibility, depending upon the degree of the problem, and contributes to distortion of the auditory signal. When the hearing differs in one ear from the other, people may have difficulty comprehending what is said or read, following directions, and organizing their own thoughts into words. These conditions are frequently seen in individuals diagnosed with auditory processing disorders.

The Berard AIT program is based on Dr. Berard's theory that the use of electronically modulated, and on occasion, filtered music retrains the ear and auditory system to work properly. Participants listen to music through headphones for a total of ten hours. Audio tests administered prior to training and during training provide information about the individual's auditory pattern and are the basis for determining use of filters. It is believed that once the cause of the problem is corrected, therapies and educational programs become more effective in producing changes that enable the individual to achieve.

Dr. Berard believes some specific auditory problems may be helped by AIT, including: auditory hyper and hyposensitivity, auditory distortions, confused pitch relationships, delayed response and auditory laterality. Auditory hypersensitivity causes the individual to hear certain frequencies with much more intensity than others, making it difficult to attend to the target sound (teacher's voice). It is often referred to as an auditory figure-ground problem and contributes to distractibility and comprehension difficulties.

Auditory hyposensitivity causes the individual to hear certain frequencies with less intensity than the neighboring frequencies, but not to the extreme of a hearing impairment. When some frequencies are not heard as well, the word may become distorted or sound like another word, causing confusion for the listener. The listener must figure out which word was intended, or remain confused and not understand the message.

When an individual has confused pitch relationships, high/low pitches are not processed correctly. The same word spoken by someone with a high pitched voice will sound different when spoken in a low-pitched voice. The listener will be confused, and performance may vary depending on the pitch of the voice. Individuals may not enjoy music or may have difficulty singing on tune.

Delayed response indicates that it takes more time for the sound signal to register. Because speech flows rapidly from a speaker to the listener, a listener with delayed response cannot receive and process the message quickly enough. By the time the person has received and understood the beginning of the sentence, too many other words have been transmitted with insufficient time for processing. The message becomes a jumble of sounds and bits of words that cannot be organized by the listener. As a result, he becomes frustrated and gives up listening.