When speaking with graduate students and colleagues, I have received more emails and questions about this topic than any other topic related to music therapy. Does Auditory Integration Therapy (AIT) work? Is AIT a form of music therapy? What is AIT??? A cochrane review may answer some of these questions!
What is AIT? This method is based on the idea that if a person has abnormal sensitivity or insensitivity to sound will results in learning differences or behaviors. AIT is a way to “re-educate” the hearing process (Berard as cited in Sinha, 2004). There are several theories as to why these methods might work (i.e., neural reorganization, normalization of hearing).
Sinha et al (originally published 2004, updated in 2007 & 2009 with no change in conclusion) completed a cochrane review where they looked at studies on AIT with persons with autism including the Tomatis Method and Sound Therapy. As with other Cochrane reviews, they looked for Randomized Control Studies (RCT).
They found no RCT studies of sound therapy and six RCT on AIT, totaling 171 individuals who had been studied. Four of these RCT were found to have small participant numbers and all had poor allocation concealment (protected randomization – group not known before the patient enters study). Studies were not similar enough to perform meta-analaysis.
Results: Three studies showed no significant results. The other three reported some results but used measurements with “questionable validity”. The end result – more research is needed to inform practice and treatment decisions.
Clinical implications: First, AIT is not music therapy. Although you must be trained in order to practice AIT, the training has no ties or similarities to music therapy training (read more on qualifications here or here). Furthermore, the two fields are very different. Music Therapists facilitate nonmusical goals and objectives through specifically-crafted musical stimuli. AIT “re-organizes” the brain with auditory tones.
What can you, the MT-BC, say when next asked about AIT? Perhaps refer to this study, where it was found that there is not enough evidence to determine treatment efficacy. Furthermore, supporting evidence had questionable validity. Similar results were reported in a study by Rossignol (2009), where AIT was found to have minimal support.
Rossignol, D.A. (2009). Novel and emerging treatments for autism spectrum disorders: A systematic review. Ann Clin Psychiatry, 21(4), 213-36. PMID: 19917212
Sinha Y, Silove N, Wheeler D, Williams K. (2004). Auditory integration training and other sound therapies for autism spectrum disorders. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2004;(1):CD003681. Review. PMID: 14974028.