HISTORICAL OVERVIEW OF AUDITORY INTEGRATION TRAINING (AIT)
The events that led to the development of Auditory Integration Training began in the practice of the late Dr Guy Bérard (1916- 2014), a French Ear – Nose – and Throat surgeon who practiced for a time in Cambodia and then later in France. It should be emphasised from the start he developed AIT first as an intervention for his own progressive hearing loss and the tinnitus that accompanied it.
This new treatment rapidly became known in Europe for its usefulness in overcoming dyslexia. It was also found that certain cases of emotional and mood disturbances responded well to AIT.
...So it was that Dr Bérard was visited by the family of an American girl, Georgiana Stehli, then 11 years old. Diagnosed by internationally – renowned experts variously as “autistic”, “psychotic” , “dyslexic” and “retarded”, she also had hyper-acute hearing. She received her AIT with Dr Bérard, and started a slow steady emergence from both autism and dyslexia. These labels soon became inappropriate as her giftedness in numerous areas can show. Her social skills developed, she is married with children, supports her home, runs her own business, and in addition travels as a speaker and counsels at an autism centre.
What must not be forgotten is that these changes took hard work. For years after AIT Georgie’s mom, Annabel, with Peter, worked hard with Georgie to modify her problem behaviours. A “quick fix” it was not! Those who have read her story as an overnight miracle with no hard work are likely to be very disillusioned with their own experience of AIT.
Professional opinion was guarded as the Stehli’s tried to tell of their experience, but they worked steadily at letting others know about AIT. They met with the late Dr Bernard Rimland (Autism Research Institute), who was intrigued by their account. He obtained an audiokinetron from Dr Bérard and began to do research into its efficacy for autism.
Before this development in the USA, across the border in Montreal, Dr Gérard Binet had already been successfully offering AIT to clients for some time.
Information to the English-speaking general public was not available for many years perhaps due to the fact that Dr Bérard’s book was published only in French!
When Georgie completed school and college with honours, and was well on her way to establish her own life, Annabel wrote her story, “The Sound of a Miracle”. In 1990 the CBS team went to Dr Bérard’s home to film a program which was well-received. Due to Annabel’s gift of communication, the book came to public attention quickly on its release in 1991, and sparked a demand for AIT in the United States. The Readers Digest featured it as Book of the Month in March 1991. In December 1991 the ABC Television program 20/20 featured the story and some case studies. Annabel was invited to speak frequently at conferences and meetings, she was interviewed by Larry King, Sally Jessy Raphael, the Australian “Beyond 2000” ran a feature, and many newspapers reported stories about AIT.
This information became available to South Africa, due to “Carte Blanche” screening the 20/20 segment, and the Readers Digest article. This prompted the first speech and language therapist in SA to work in Autism, Rosalie Seymour, to visit the USA to be trained by Dr Bérard as a practitioner.
THE GEORGIANA INSTITUTE
The Georgiana Organisation was formed by the Stehli’s to spread information about AIT, and they arranged for Dr Bérard to come to the USA to train interested practitioners from various disciplines. Between 1991 and 1993 , 8 such training courses had been run, with about 20 people training per course.
At this time, some studies and a double-blind placebo study were conducted by various researchers, including Drs Rimland, Edelson, Panksepp , Highfill and Cimorelli, and Rudy, Morgan and Shepard, confirming the observed benefits of AIT were due to the treatment and not just chance.
Then the FDA clamped down on the Audiokinetron, putting a “class 3” rating on it (the usual procedure) that restricted further development of the practice of AIT in the USA, since nobody could take a Kinetron across state borders, nor bring one into the country until their tests are concluded. ( A class 3 rating puts it into the category of equipment that may be operated only by highly skilled practitioners, e.g. laser eye surgery.)
By now it is more than obvious, after these many years of AIT practice that the Audiokinetron has no proven risk . Recently the FDA declared that they have no control over devices employed for educational purposes only, so while the Audiokinetron they had seized remains under investigation, the Earducator is not, neither are the DAA or FST systems. Such devices may be brought into the USA without restriction.
THE BGC DEVICE
A device similar to the Audiokinetron, was later built by the USA engineer, Bill Clarke, called the BGC device. It did not achieve Bérard approval, and is no longer being manufactured.
CHANGES IN LEADERSHIP
Dr Bérard retired in his villa near Annecy and ‘handed over the reins’ to Dr Stephen Edelson. He has since stepped down from this position to take up leadership of the Autism Research Institute, and control now rests with Sally Brockett in the USA .
The Auditory Integration Training-Pro website is the international representative of those doing AIT in a manner faithful to the original Bérard protocol.
In South Africa, the cost factor had prevented others from training, so Rosalie Seymour, the first AIT practitioner and trainer in SA, felt that the development of a South African-built device was essential. She supervised and funded its development, and the Earducator was created. This device found Dr Bérard’s enthusiastic approval, and was well-received at the first International Association of Bérard Practitioners conference in Antwerp, 2000.
In some countries the emphasis of AIT has fallen on assisting children with educational difficulties, particularly the listening-skills problems underlying phonics problems, reading and spelling difficulties, as well as autism, concentration problems, etc.
THE DAA The Georgiana Institute developed an alternative system of AIT delivery, namely the Digital Auditory Aerobics (DAA), also known as Earliest Adventures in Sound. The principles are similar to the Bérard approach, but the device uses pre-recorded discs with electronically modulated music, specially composed and performed and then modulated to be like Audiokinetron output. These discs then play through a further filtering process, through earphones, as one would for AIT.
FILTERED SOUND TRAINING
Rosalie Seymour continued to research more cost-effective ways of bringing AIT within the reach of the client. With the team from Dataworks, a bespoke programming company in Waterford, Ireland, a PC-based programme was developed which delivers AIT – sound modulation with all the controls needed to ensure effective AIT. This allows AIT to be done effectively at home so that those who cannot access a local practitioner may still obtain the training with minimum disruption. FST brings costs within everyone’s reach.
TRAINERS: There are several international FST trainers for practitioners. These can be contacted by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
AIT INSTITUTE: This institute seeks to inform the public about all issues relating to AIT, while maintaining its distance from political affiliation.