Tomatis, Autism and Sensory Integration ( 1-877-4AUTKID)

Tomatis and Sensory Integration
they arrived at it independently, but both Alfred A. Tomatis and Jean Ayres had a developmental model... it told where we were in a necessary sequence of steps in our growth to maturity.

.......Tomatis Topics

T he theories of Dr. Tomatis and observations of theory in practice provided me with a better foundation for understanding of the link between praxis, communication, and language than just Sensory Integration theory alone.

Ayres in her research found a relationship between improved vestibular functioning and language. She found improvement in auditory processing as well as a link between depressed nystagmus and expressive language. When one improved so did the other. She felt that the therapeutic use of sensory integrative procedures could have their greatest effect on language test scores. She largely spoke of the vestibular and auditory systems as separate however.

I remember in a course 1978 that Josephine Moore gave about the vestibular system that the vestibular and auditory system, though separated for teaching purposes were really one system 'the vestibular cochlea system' and it was important that we think of them that way. Dr. Tomatis most certainly considers them as one.

This in my mind is where Tomatis added a great deal. Tomatis saw them much more as one system, the vestibular/cochlear system, and that sound influenced both the vestibule portion as well as the cochlear.


T omatis sees the ear as an integrator. He saw the vestibular (balancing) and Cochlear (decoding of sound) functions of the ear joined in a single system. The vestibule analyzes larger movements, those within the body, and the cochlea evolved as an addition to analyze smaller acoustical type movements.

Anatomically he describes three systems of integration.

Firstly the vestibular integrator acts to integrate all the muscles of the body, noting that all muscles depend on the vestibule for their tone. Secondly was the visual integrator where the eye references through the ear. Thirdly the cochlear or linguistic integrator which interprets sounds and allows for language to develop. We listen with our whole bodies

And lastly it is impossible to talk of the Vestibular system separately from the Cerebellum. When Dr. Tomatis talk of the vestibular system he is universally talking of the projections to the cerebellum, especially the archeo-cerebellum.


S ound as an entry into the Nervous System Ayres used movement as her portal into the nervous system while Tomatis used sound. My observations are that I did a lot of sensory integration before becoming trained in the Tomatis method, but I never saw the extent of the impact on language that I see with the addition of sound stimulation. So with the addition of sound I felt that I was better able to affect the cochlear integrator.

On the other hand I see changes in postural functions with the use of sound that I could not get with movement-based approaches alone. And that was very interesting to me. I particularly saw changes in the area of muscle tone - the posture really improved.

Mostly I saw changes in what I have been referring to as the symbolic functions, in the area of non-verbal communication. This is what I call Communicative Praxis.Theoretically I find the Tomatis method very consistent with what I was already doing, I just felt that it added a piece or added a dimension. And I especially feel that the combination of the two is particularly powerful.

I really feel that with the Tomatis Method I am as much influencing the vestibular system as the cochlear and I expect to see changes in both functions.'The nervous system grew out of the ear.'


W hile Ayres came to the vestibular system through her study of learning disabilities and reading related visual spatial disorders. Tomatis came to the vestibular system from his desire to understand the processes of communication. He found the vestibular system when looking for the first phylogenetic organ of communication.

He saw the vestibular system as the first system of communication phylogentically. The primitive vestibular system and its relationship to gravity, was the first relating from inner life to outer life.

Jean Ayres in her description of the primacy of the vestibular system in the evolution and development of the human nervous system put it this way:

' The child's relationship to gravity is more primal than their relationship to mother'

Loretta Bender said in 1956 that 'The vestibular system enabled the developing organism to distinguish between self and non-self' This is important to the Tomatis concept of communication. We need a self and a non-self in order to have an interaction. I can see this distinction start to evolve in the autistic children as the respond to therapy. Prior to that their relationship is primarily symbiotic. The body schema improves along with the motor planning, and they start to have more of a sense of mastery and autonomy. They see themselves as separate.


T he vestibular system is anatomically joined with cochlear system, and the systems lie closely together throughout the nervous system. This allows for many close neuronal associations with auditory processing and language. Decreased vestibular processing can impact on the area of speech and language development, particularly auditory processing. Research has found that therapy to improve the function of the vestibular system can also result in improved language development.

Auditory processing disorders are often related to disorders in processing within the vestibular system. In actuality, auditory perception is dependent on good interaction between the vestibular - cochlear apparatus, which then sends sensory information up to the higher processing center of the brain. When there is inadequate sensory information from the vestibular cochlear system it is more difficult to develop appropriate auditory processing. To develop normal receptive the foundation of normal sensory input from the vestibular - cochlea system is important.

The auditory system needs a stable base provided by the vestibular system in order to process information. In order to develop language it is necessary to process complex information through the auditory system. The auditory system is required to separate the speech stream into meaningful single units of auditory objects. Much as the visual system, which has to reference what it sees through the vestibular system, the auditory system also must perform a similar reference. Without the stability from the vestibular system, it is difficult for the auditory system to accurately interpret the sound stream well.

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