Auditory training therapy is an alternative—and somewhat controversial—treatment used for kids with auditory processing disorder (APD). Kids with APD have normal hearing but struggle to process the sounds they hear. They often misunderstand what other people, including teachers, say.
What Auditory Training Therapy Is
Auditory training therapy is part of an increasingly popular field of alternative therapies known as “brain training.” Two of the best-known auditory training programs are the Berard Auditory Integration Training (AIT) Services and Fast ForWord.
Auditory training therapy, sometimes called auditory integration training (AIT), has been used in the United States since 1991. A French doctor, Guy Berard, developed AIT with the idea that auditory processing issues stem from oversensitivity or undersensitivity to sound (or certain sound frequencies), which can interfere with learning. Supporters of this method say it helps kids discriminate and remember speech sounds.
Fast ForWord is software program that takes a different approach. The premise of this program is that with guided practice, children can develop more efficient auditory processing and learn to think about what they hear. It’s designed to improve listening accuracy and memory through games and exercises.
Who Auditory Training Therapy Is For
Auditory training is designed for kids with APD, autism, and Asperger’s syndrome. It’s also used to treat sensory processing issues, such as being over- or undersensitive to sound.
Therapists who deliver this type of training say it can also help kids who have trouble concentrating, such as those with ADHD. And it’s sometimes used to treat kids with nonverbal learning disabilities.
How Auditory Training Therapy Works
In AIT, children are fitted with special hearing devices. These devices filter sounds, amplifying certain frequencies and “softening” the intensity of others. AIT providers claim this can correct abnormal ear dominance and help people hear, discriminate and remember speech sounds. This is similar to the way hearing aids work for people with hearing loss.
Fast ForWord is a software program designed to improve listening accuracy and memory through games and exercises. Children follow a prescribed program of activities over a period of time.
Who Provides Auditory Training Therapy
Auditory training is provided by people who are trained and certified in a certain method (such as Berard’s AIT). They’re often teachers, audiologists or occupational therapists who have experience working with students with special needs.
Fast ForWord is delivered by trained providers in schools and learning clinics. Both AIT and Fast ForWord can also be used at home, with parents supervising their kids.
What to Watch Out For
Despite being in use for over 20 years in the United States, there’s little or no evidence that AIT helps kids with APD. According to the most recent review from the American Speech-Hearing-Language Association, AIT is still considered “an experimental procedure.” This is due to a lack of valid research studies.
Although Fast ForWord is well regarded by many people in the learning disabilities community, research on its effectiveness in treating APD in students with LD has shown mixed results.
The Bottom Line
This type of therapy can be expensive and time-consuming. You could end up wasting time and money—and delay getting more effective help for your child.
While there’s little harm in trying auditory training therapy, the scientific evidence that proves it helps kids with APD is lacking. If you want to try this approach with your child, be aware that it may or may not work.