Hearing and speech are common challenges for children with Down Syndrome or Trisomy 21. Susceptible to chronic ear fluid and infections, auditory development is a crucial area of focus when taking a comprehensive approach to helping these children reach their innate potential.
If hearing is impacted, so is listening, auditory processing, receptive and expressive language, and cognitive function. One broken link in the chain creates a domino effect in terms of development of learning, behavior and communication.
Music listening therapy is a viable intervention for children with Down Syndrome. We have seen wide and varied success with The Listening Program® over the years, with the greatest success when the music is provided with a specialized audio system we developed called the ABT Bone Conduction Audio System™ that connects to an iPod or portable CD player and delivers the music simultaneously through air conduction and subtle vibrations through bone conduction. This integrated approach delivers a more reliable auditory signal to the brain helping to train it to discriminate sound and support other functions of the autonomic and central nervous systems.
A study was conducted by Gwyneth Jeyes and Caroline Newton in the UK in which a group of kids with Down Syndrome completed just half of the recommended minimum 50 hour protocol of The Listening Program® which is spread over the course of several months, with daily listening sessions of 15 or 30 minutes. These kids ages 5 to 12 yrs listened for just 25 hours and without the added bone conduction training. Even at this level of intervention all but one of the nine children showed improvements in listening, speech and language skills based on parent surveys. Other improvements were also seen in several of the children.
These results were presented in a Poster Session at the 1oth World Down Syndrome Congress in Dublin back in August. While the study is small, the outcomes are consistent with reports from Speech and Language Pathologists and other practitioners using The Listening Program® with their clients with this chromosomal anomaly. I am hopeful that we will see interest in see a larger, controlled study.