In this Episode
Do you tend to message someone LOL, but really only laugh in your head?
If so, then you’re missing out on a powerful listening therapy: hearing your voice. Our voice can be stimulating and energizing to our brain.
This week’s podcast guest is Paul Madaule, author and founder of the Listening Centre in Toronto, Canada. He shares his journey with learning disabilities, and how improving listening had such a dramatic effect on his dyslexia and other learning challenges.
In this week's episode, you'll learn:
- How listening training impacts reading and writing
- What is listening training and how does it work
- A powerful listening exercise that anyone can do on their own
“If you can make the sound clearer to your brain, the eyes are going to have a much easier time to know what the translation is when reading.”
- Paul Madaule
How can control the amount of noise and distractions around the house while your kids are studying or doing homework?
Tune in to the Bonus Q&A where Paul Madaule gives guidance on how to improve listening at home
Jill Stowell: What does listening have to do with dyslexia or attention or social skills, sense of well-being, energy and stamina? Everything.
In 1999, I was introduced to sound therapy or auditory training for the first time. I knew then that it was something important but I had no idea what a profound impact actively training the brain to listen would have.
One of the first books I read when I was starting to learn about this kind of training was When Listening Comes Alive by Paul Madaule. This is my very well-loved version. It is an outstanding resource and today we have Paul with us to talk about the power of listening in changing dyslexia and other learning challenges.
This is LD Expert Live.
Jill Stowell: Welcome to the LD Expert Podcast, your place for answers and solutions for dyslexia, learning and attention challenges. I’m your host Jill Stowell, founder of Stowell Learning Centers and author of a brand new book Take the Stone Out of the Shoe: A Must-Have Guide to Understanding, Supporting and Correcting Dyslexia, Learning and Attention Challenges.
This book will help you understand why some bright children and teens have more difficulty than expected in school. It provides simple, practical tools for supporting struggling students at home and in the classroom. Most importantly, it presents real solutions and the science behind them.
Our guest today is Paul Madaule. Born in France, Paul studied at the University of Paris-Sorbonne while training with Dr. Alfred Tomatis and graduated in psychology in 1972.
After years practicing and teaching the Tomatis listening training work in Europe and South Africa, Paul came to Toronto, Ontario, Canada in 1978 and founded The Listening Centre.
Since then, Paul has been involved in establishing numerous listening training clinics in the US and Mexico. Paul has written numerous articles on subjects related to the educational and therapeutic value of music, voice and listening training with children with developmental and learning problems.
Paul’s book When Listening Comes Alive, first published in 1993, has been translated into 10 languages. The e-book version is available on The Listening Centre website
Norman Doidge MD has written an engaging portrayal of Paul and a detailed explanation of his work at The Listening Centre in his book The Brain’s Way of Healing.
Welcome Paul. It’s so nice to have you.
Paul Madaule: Good morning. Welcome. Thank you very much.
Jill Stowell: Norman Doidge’s book The Brain’s Way of Healing is an incredible book and I was so excited to see that he included your work in it. You have been one of my heroes in the field for a very long time. So I was excited to see that.
Let’s start by talking about The Listening Centre. Just talk about what you do there.
Paul Madaule: Well, The Listening Centre is a clinical facility that started as you say it in your introduction in 1978. I come from France with Dr. Tomatis to develop what was going to be the first listening training facility in North America.
It is in Toronto and it has been in practice, non-interrupted since that time. That means 42 years now and despite of COVID, we are still continuing to work all by home program and using Zoom and some equipment that we are sending to people who need to have the program.
The Listening Centre receive children and adults with all kinds of difficulties going from communication, language and learning issue, all related, and that’s what the name of The Listening Centre, all related to the function of listening. Our work is about listening. It’s about improving listening and as a result, many of the issues we are going to talk about are improved. That is the key work of The Listening Centre.
Jill Stowell: And we are going to really dig into that whole issue of using listening to improve learning challenges. Before we do that, I want to talk a little bit about what it’s like to have a learning disability. You know, parents and teachers definitely empathize and hurt for their kids. But if you haven’t struggled yourself, you don’t really know what it’s like and I know Paul you had dyslexia. What is it like to have a learning disability?
Paul Madaule: Well, I have to address a little bit. I still have dyslexia. I made it and it’s certainly not a liability. First of all I made it my work, which is not a small thing, and when you say that I studied psychology in Sorbonne, it’s true. But my first university is having to live a life with a learning disability, with a difficulty to read and more than that, that we’re going to talk about that, until I was 18 years old, which may not give me enough. You know, 18 years old we are really basically an adult and we remember. It’s not like I was four years old when something happened and well, we don’t remember very much.
Eighteen years old, we remember and that has permitted me to understand – not only understand what learning disability it from the books, from what I learned and from my clinical experience but understand it from within and use this understanding from within to help people, particularly the kids and adolescents that have been through my life, through my help that I’ve helped all along and particularly – when I’m saying I’m working with children, we are working with children with learning, et cetera.
Most of my work I have to say, I will say 70 to 80 percent of my work all my life has been to work with their parents in order for them to understand the child because what I remember from from being learning-disabled is that I was surrounded by people who really didn’t understand and though who thought they understood didn’t really understand the core of the program. They understood the symptoms. They understood how it looks like.
I’m talking about people that – you know, I was in France with – we didn’t talk about speech pathologists or occupational therapists or we talked about octophonists [0:08:36] [Phonetic]. But basically doing the same work but they understood the problem through the symptoms.
What is important to understand is that the problem – a problem is the way you experience it. I will just give you an example. The life of a child who has a learning disability is to be told that he has a learning disability in different ways, who will do better. You know, the report cards saying this and saying that, sending it to their parents. That was a way it was done and still done in many places, who are kind of reinforcing what the teachers say and with more effort, will do better and all those things.
Well, one thing that I want to say is that the person who lives this learning disability doesn’t have to be told that he has it. He knows. He is part of it He is really within it and having to be told again and again something you know, it’s you say the least annoying, frustrating or whatever you want to call it, which is going to make you react in a certain way.
Then there are two levels that they can see, two phases that they can see in the development of the child. Is the child before or I would say the pre-teen or the teenage, which means the younger child and the teenager, the adolescent?
The problem is different in the before and after. There is a moment around depending, that around 12 to 14 years old, where we have to develop our personality, personality meaning in fact our persona, which is our mask, which is the belief of who you are, in order to operate in life.
This is what I am. Before that time, people tell you, “OK, you don’t know how to read. You have to learn how to read. You have to go to school. You have …” Fine and you follow. At that time, you say, “Well, I have to live with who I am and if school is not really able to …” Well, that is a way you start turning things around.
I am what I am and school doesn’t seem to like what I am. Well, goodbye school or not goodbye school but trying to accommodate with something that deep down you are not accepting.
From a learning problem, you start developing what I will call an existential problem. You have to live with yourself in a situation where you feel that people around you think they understand you but they don’t really understand you.
They understand your problem. They don’t understand the person. They don’t understand what it is to receive an information distorted. They don’t understand how to – that in your mind you have much more to talk about than what comes out either orally for some people or for most people with learning disability in writing.
It happened that following my “recovery,” I started becoming a traveler and to work – to teach this work, to spread this work, which I really believe very much about as you will see all over the world. But in order to do that, I had to learn languages.
I had to learn English. Later on, I had to learn Spanish. Every time I found myself in another language, I went back to the memories of my old learning disability. That’s why I have defined being learning disabled being a foreigner, but a foreigner in your own language and when you – but the difference is that when you go and learn another language, at least you can fall back to your own language.
When you are tired of listening to people speaking your language that you don’t really understand, it requires so much effort. You can go back to your own language. The problem of someone with a learning disability which by the way has a lot to do with language at some level. OK? That we can talk more about that when we talk about listening and language.
But what happened is that you do not have the ability to fall back to a previous life of decent, of harmonious communication, which means that you start – starting to have doubt about yourself. You start having a distorted – it’s a distortion of – restriction of information. This distorted way of expressing before becomes – particularly with adolescents, the way you are. You are a foreigner within yourself. You don’t really know who you are anymore and that’s what I call again the existential issue of learning disabled. That’s actually more as something within yourself than – or learning at school, if you want.
Jill Stowell: Right, right. You know, when you said it’s kind of like you’re a foreigner in your own language, when I went to France and spent some time in Paris, by the end of the day, I kind of felt – I felt tired trying to listen to a language that I didn’t really understand and I thought, wow, I wonder if this is what our students feel like day after day as they try to process the information but they just can’t get it clearly and accurately enough.
Paul Madaule: It’s exactly what they do for many of them. Yeah, and we have to understand that if we really want to communicate with them at the deepest level.
Jill Stowell: And so tell us a little bit – you said, you know, you had to learn some other languages. You overcame the learning disability part of dyslexia. Tell us about your journey to change that. How did that change for you?
Paul Madaule: Well, first of all, I was struggling at school so much that I kind of become a dropout. I didn’t go to school anymore. They were trying to – my school, we’re talking about the ‘60s and we’re talking about the South of France, a small town. They’re trying to accommodate me. I had repeated three grades already. I was getting older than older kids in the classroom.
I didn’t fit anymore, which meant that I started not – I started to not to go to school and it just happened that I was interested in art, always been and hopefully will be. Visual arts and the only place around the town I was living, which was into art, was at monastery.
It just happened that monks very much – at least of this monastery were into art and I was going there. It was just a bike ride from my home, like about – anyway, I could go by bicycle and I’m doing this looking at them, working on a different – glassmaking, different art. I met a monk that I started talking and he knew that I had difficulty at school.
But he knew a little bit my family and one day, this monk arrived at our house and said, “There’s a doctor in the monastery who is working with us and gave us a lecture on the work that he’s doing in Paris and it has to do with dyslexia and learning disability and what he described is very much who you are. We could arrange that you meet him,” and that’s where I met Dr. Tomatis, which means that it wasn’t in a clinic or in any place like that.
I met him at a monastery, in the alley of a monastery. He did some testing with me or someone – one monk that he had trained. Tested my ears which surprised me because one thing I thought was working well with me was my hearing. I realized later that I might have been wrong about that. That you can have a difficulty with your ear while hearing perfectly well, which is what we called “listening”.
That was my first introduction to the person who developed – he really was the grandfather of all the listening training program, auditory training and so on that I met directly and who invited and told me that in fact many of the difficulty I had will be improved as long as I could come to spend some time in his clinic in Paris, which I did.
I spent a summer, most of the summer of 1967 in fact in Paris doing a round of programs, an intensive round. Very much like we do now over three or four weeks in his clinic, then going to – in fact he sent me to – advised me to go to England to shape up my English, which I needed to have as a second language in the French curriculum and back in August to do the second intensive and then put – arranged to put me in a residential, in a boarding school close to Paris.
Then I could during the weekend commute and continue to do reinforcement of my program while continuing – reintegrating the school system and two years later, I successfully passed the baccalaureate, which is the end of the high school curriculum in France and opened the door to university and from there the choice of going to psychology in order to continue this work. That’s it. That was my introduction to this work.
Jill Stowell: Right.
Paul Madaule: What I can say about it, which is very important, which I learned and I use very often is that the first question I asked Dr. Tomatis when he told me, “I can help you.” I asked him, “Is it going to change my dreams? In a way, are you going to change me?” and he told me, “No. You’re going to be you but you’re going to be you able to operate,” and it’s exactly what I am. I have not changed. Deep down I’m the person I always wanted to be except that I can be what I wanted to be and at the time …
Jill Stowell: Wow. That is so important. You know, I have had students say that as well. Who am I going to be? When I can read, who will I be? Will I really still be myself?
Paul Madaule: Exactly, exactly. It’s a very important point that as to be understood, particularly with those who have worked very, very hard to develop this personality, who have arrived to the conclusion that this is who I am. I can be without reading. I can be without going to school. Well, you are going to have to help them to reframe that but do not be surprised that you get a little bit of a resistance. It’s part of it. It’s part of the process.
Jill Stowell: Right, right.
Paul Madaule: You are going to be who you want to be without being different. That is a message we want to send to these people.
Jill Stowell: That’s huge. So I was getting ready to ask you and that’s a piece of it. With your personal experience with dyslexia and the work that you do at The Listening Centre, what would you want children and parents to understand about listening and learning issues?
Paul Madaule: First of all, I would like to say what we mean by listening because sometimes it needs a little bit of a – I think a definition or clarification. As I said, I was hearing perfectly well. I love music. I could even sing in tune. I could not remember lyrics but – and I couldn’t read very well, which means I was a little bit stuck to be part of a group for example.
But – and I could not play music with instruments because of coordination issue. My right and left hand didn’t – I want to say didn’t communicate with each other very well, which means that all my attempts to play guitar and things like that in order to be a teenager of the time – we were in the ‘60s – didn’t work out very well and then later on in life, I’ve become busy, busy, busy doing other things. I kind of forgot that part until now.
But what I want parents to know is that learning disability is – the academic, the school issue is the end of a long line of issues which have to be improved before you really start changing that. We talked about development. I think the learning disability, I very strongly believe that it’s a developmental issue which starts early on, depending of – it depends of course what kind of person. But very often we know that there are language issues, et cetera.
Now one thing that I want to say – I will go back to my first idea is to tell you what listening is. Listening is the ability to pick up – a bit like the tongue of a frog. Pick up what you want, the information you want, and as a result leave aside – protect yourself from the information you don’t want.
One of the ways I – you know, playing with paradox, I define listening – poor listening is hearing too much, hearing what you need and hearing also what you do not need and what you do not need might be louder or more interesting or whatever and basically dwarfs or melts the message that you want to receive. That’s what happens very often in the classroom.
There are other words. You talk about those kinds of things and perhaps other way of explaining it, ADD, ADHD or auditory processing disorder, and all those words which at the time I was – didn’t exist and the concept of listening, ability to pick up what you want, protect yourself what you do not is really at the core of the work we are doing and using sound, that was the great I would say insight of Dr. Tomatis who was himself an ear, nose and throat specialist. Understood the ear, understood the mechanism of how the sound information goes from the ear to the brain, how to improve that ability of facilitating the work of the brain to process the information that it received.
Those are the dimensions of the work of Tomatis which goes beyond auditory processing and which is very important is that he always mentioned the fact that the ear is not only for receiving sound. But the ear is also the system which permits us to analyze movement, the movement of body in space and together with the proprioceptive system, the movement of the hand, the movement of the finger, the movement of the eyes, which are so important in reading and of course writing.
It means that in Tomatis thinking, in the thinking of the work that we are doing at The Listening Centre, when we think in terms of listening, we think in terms of facilitating the brain job in receiving information coming from sound but also coming from the body, from the movement of the body. This is very important to understand written language. Written language is a translation of sound, of sound into images and reading and body movement, writing.
Jill Stowell: Absolutely. It is just so fascinating to me how everything is so connected and I just want to emphasize for people watching because if you haven’t heard this frequently, there may be a little confusion. But listening is not the same as hearing. As Paul said, he could hear perfectly. The ears hear but listening is a brain function and so if the brain isn’t perceiving that information clearly and crisply, then you’re going to be responding to a confusing message.
Paul Madaule: Exactly.
Jill Stowell: And I love that there is that connection in the ear with the vestibular system. So the system of movement also. Yeah.
Paul Madaule: When you look at listening, first of all there is now more than before. We talk more and more about auditory processing, the work of Mezernick and Talal [0:28:29] [Phonetic], talk about temporal processing, which means X time to process an information.
If you process the information too slow, you are going to hear the information distorted which means that fast forward, it’s a technique using computer technology to speed up the way or to modify the content of phonemes in order to make your brain receiving them better. Well, the work of Tomatis has been to understand that the ear, within the ear, there is a system in the middle ear, which is known usually as the passage and the transformation of soundwave, airwave, into fluid movement to be picked up by the inner ear and send to the brain.
But what Tomatis observed is that those little ossicles of the middle ear, not only do they move but they are pulled and pushed and pulled, which means that they are basically manipulated by two little muscles, the stapedius muscle and the hammer muscle, called the “tensor tympani”. These two muscles have a role in understanding of how the ear is more active than we see. Very, very much like the eyes, which are vision that – which correspond to hearing and the ocular system, which is the movement of the eyes in order to follow what you want to see.
Well, imagine that the ear has also a system in the middle ear, which is basically the ocular system of hearing and that is the sound stimulation administered in a certain way. We are trying to apply in order to improve listening function. That is the core of the work that we are trying to do. You sound as a way to improve this active ability of the ear to facilitate the work, the processing job of the brain.
Jill Stowell: And it is amazing how well it works. I know when I first started to explore auditory processing and sound therapy as a way to improve dyslexia and other learning challenges back in 1999, 2000, I was astonished by the changes that we were seeing through listening training. Well now, it’s a tool that we don’t want to work without. It just has such a profound impact.
Paul Madaule: And – yes, go ahead.
Jill Stowell: Go ahead and then we’re going to cut over and check in with our viewers.
Paul Madaule: OK. And it’s spreading. I mean there are several approaches now which more or less directly look at learning disability from the point of view of what the ear contributes. What they have to understand is that written work, it’s secondary to the sound of language, to the sound of – is that writing is very recent. The process of writing is – considering the development of humankind, writing is very, very, very recent. We are asking the brain to do something which is not really natural.
Hearing and language is natural. We have that ability. Want it or not, if everything works well when we are born, we are going to speak. Animals are not. We are going to speak. We are lucky. We are that hardwired.
Reading is more complicated. Reading is a translation. It’s like going to another country and learned the other language. Now children have such an incredible ability, plasticity, that they do it in a way that seems to be natural. But it’s not that natural. But what I want to say is that every sound, every written sign is a translation of a sound which may not – want it or not, you have to go through the ear.
If you can make it sound clearer to your brain, your eyes are going to have a much, much easier time to know what the translation is, which means that your written word, your letters are. That is what – big part why listening, improving listening is so efficient in helping people with reading and writing programs.
For me, I mean I’m born with it. Professionally speaking which means that it’s obvious but it’s not obvious for everybody.
Jill Stowell: Right. This is LD Expert Live. I’m Jill Stowell, founder of Stowell Learning Centers and we’ve been talking with Paul Madaule, author and founder of the Listening Centre in Toronto, Canada about overcoming dyslexia and learning challenges through listening training.
Well, we started kind of down the road of talking about listening training. There are a number of terms used for it – auditory training, sound therapy, sound stimulation. Can you just give us a little primer on this kind of training?
Paul Madaule: OK. Well, listening training, auditory training, I would prefer personally listening because it’s really more precise in my mind, at least, than auditory training. But sound stimulation or it’s also important because we are using – it’s really an auditory or listening training with sound stimulation.
We use sound stimulation to develop this function, this active function of the middle ear that we call “listening,” this working on those little muscles, which means that we take music, which we use it as a material, sound material and we modify it through what we call filters or auditory sound filters and we pass them to canals, which permit us to exercise the function of listening, which means that we – because we are dealing with muscle, we – you know, how you do to train a muscle.
You create a tension, release, tension, release. But we can do the same thing with sound. We know that sound, which is in law of frequency, could use kind of a release. That is what you are doing when you are not listening. You know, when you’re thinking about something else. You’re still hearing things around you. But your muscles are kind of relaxed.
Then up, something picks up your attention. It’s a little bit like the rabbit. It’s idea of the bunny. You know, the ears go up. The ears perk up or ears perk up in the middle ear. It’s more discreet than the rabbit or the dog or the cat.
We listen. This function of listen meaning that there is tension of the muscles and then when you are not interested anymore, release. Tension, release, tension. If this function is not – if those muscles are not doing their job as well as they should, you are not going to maintain your listening long enough or you are going to hear some distortion or you are going to hear too slow – I mean all those types of auditory processing or listening problem that we know, which means that our work is to create this pull, push, pull, push with this exercising of those muscles through sound stimulation.
Now we do this through a program which using music most of the time, which goes from listening. You just – what we call passive listening. You just receive the information. You can do something else. You can play. You can draw. You can do puzzles. Then that starts opening your ear and this opening, as you were mentioning before Jill, goes relatively fast. But that is only the beginning of the work and I insist on that because many people are satisfied with that part.
Oh, now that the ears are open, everything is going to go well and then a month later, oh, but it is not going as well as we wanted. Well, it is because when you start improving something, you have to find a way to keep reinforcing it. Reinforcing the improvement and the beauty of the way we are made up is that we have a system which permits to stimulate, develop, reinforce our listening. What is this system?
Well, this system is all voice. It’s like learning a language. The more I speak it, the more I listen to, I start listening to it then I start – I continue to speak it. Then reinforce it and the loop, the circle gets bigger and bigger and bigger. That’s a way you improve listening, which means that there’s a second phase in the work we do which is extremely important and that many people in auditory training kind of forget because it’s a little bit more complicated than just listening to music. It’s the voice work.
You have the microphone and you hear in real time your voice modified through the device which modified the music and transmits your voice to this system of push, pull, push, pull, push, pull in order to develop your self-listening and your self-listening is going to be the – is going to ensure the long-term effect of the program.
As a clinician, what interests me is not just a change. A pill can change you but as soon as you stop taking the pill, you’re back to where you were. I want the change to maintain. The beauty is that we have a system, which is called voice or voice when we speak or voice when we read, which permits to maintain, reinforce and permit you little by little to get out or to get less [0:39:38] [Indiscernible] less enslaved by your learning disability.
That is what I’ve done. I have to say my treatment with Tomatis, my therapy at the time, my training took about, you know, a summertime plus perhaps one year of reinforcement. But very early on Tomatis told me, “If you want to really move on, move on, move on and do whatever you want, you have to work on your voice.” The way Tomatis was suggesting, and I still do that, to work on the voice is reading out loud.
In our work, we have worked – we’re going great, great, great lengths particularly since we work with Zoom, to make the reading out loud as fun and interesting as possible. We look at a book like a kind of a box in which a story is going to come out and your job is to make this story come alive as interesting, as fun as possible and children of imagination and they can – if you know how to approach them, they can do that. They can read to their dogs. They can read to their little brothers. But read becomes – the word “reading” very often for someone who is dyslexic creates a mental block. I don’t know how to read. It’s like someone who will say, “I don’t know how to sing.”
Well, everybody knows how to sing. It doesn’t mean that they know how to sing well. In singing, it doesn’t mean well. It means do you know how to put two notes together. Everybody knows how to do that even if they sing out of tune.
Reading is a sensing but forget about the visual aspect of reading. The visual aspect, think about it as it’s secondary to listening to your voice telling a story. Tell a story and you just thought, well, just like this, that this story is in something which looks like a page and your job is to get this story come alive.
If you are right to switch that around, you are going to make a child not read well but come out with the words which are on the page. That is a starting point and if you can make that fun and that is a job of the educator. If you can make something fun, you are touching the fiber, you are touching what children need to learn without real effort..
Now it doesn’t mean that it’s going to be effortless but it’s going to be fun, which means the work we do during the active phase of the program is to make this reading fun and then following the program, that is what I call the neuroplastic aspect of our work is to continue to read out loud, which is an exercise that I recommend people who have done this program or to the parent, the children who have not done this program. It's always a possibility to read out loud and in order to make it more – to make it stronger, to make it more effective, to make it more – working more on the ear, you put your right hand as if it was a microphone in front of your mouth.
Like if you wanted to boom around the information from your hand to your ear, from your right hand to your right ear, why the right ear? Because it is the ear connected more specifically with the language center of the brain, which means that you are creating a stronger link between the voice, the ear, the brain, the voice, the ear, the brain, and you improve listening and as a result – or reading and as a result all those mechanisms underlying the learning process.
I assure you it works. The only time it doesn’t work is when children are forced to do it. They hate reading and if you take the approach of making it a task, a job, an exercise, you will kill its effectiveness. It has to be done in the beginning like talking, with moving your hand in front of your mouth, like Italians do and French do.
You have to find fun ways to do it. It’s really a fantastic exercise for me to – it helped me not only with English – with French but with English and later on in life the Spanish. I learned so much by putting my words into my mouth, into my ear, into my brain. This is the best exercise I can recommend people to do.
If the voice is not good, if the child – try to really work on the quality of the voice. In fact you better deal with a voice teacher than with someone interested in – it’s a voice. It’s a quality of the projection of the voice.
Putting the right hand in front of the mouth automatically pulls the sound out of the mouth. It makes the sound come out of the mouth easier and the more the sound comes out of the mouth to produce to the lip, to the front part of the mouth, the more defined, clear, rich in color and timbre it’s going to be. The more stimulating it’s going to be for the ear and for the brain.
Jill Stowell: Wow! You just said so many amazing things in there. You know, when you said that if the child kind of has a flat voice and they’re kind of mumbling. One of the things that we do sometimes with kids is to have them create a comparison and it’s really fun and funny to do for them as opposed to having them have to repeat something over and over because they need to do it better.
Sometimes we will take like a paragraph and we will say, “OK. We’re going to read this just like a robot,” and so they have to read it as boring as they can and then we say, “OK. Now, let’s do it like an announcer, like we’re really awesome.”
By giving them that contrast, they start to be able to play with their voice and have fun. I encourage everybody to try this hand mic. This is really interesting. When you put your right hand up there, it does then amplify that voice to your right ear. Really interesting.
Paul Madaule: One thing that we’re working a lot with, with the children who have difficulty with reading is to try to pull out of them – I would call it the actor within. Many, many children – it’s very rare not to find a child somewhere who likes to be an actor. Take advantage of that. That’s what actors do. They have the text somewhere. Sometimes even in front of the eyes or presenters of – and they make it sound like it’s coming just out of the mind like totally improvised. This is what we have to convey. They will do better in acting school than perhaps at school.
Jill Stowell: Right.
Paul Madaule: They have difficulty with reading and writing.
Jill Stowell: Right, and then as you said, when we can get the voice to be really activated, it becomes an ongoing stimulus for our auditory system.
Paul Madaule: And for our brain.
Jill Stowell: Which keeps us going, keeps us energized because sound also energizes the brain.
Paul Madaule: Absolutely. Sound is transformed into neural impulse and as you know, a neural impulse is electricity. It’s biochemical – it’s really a charge to the brain. Tomatis was talking about the charging effect of sound. That’s why music therapy works. That’s why music has [0:48:28] [Indiscernible] and what he was able to do with people with neurological problems, like alter the brain or that – people who have tumors and music can do fantastic things.
It's also one of the beauty of working with listening is that we can take full advantage of the music. How many children don’t like music? All autistic children that I know and I’ve worked with many, many of them, love music. There you have the entry. You have the passport to get into them and start communicating. Use music. Use sound.
Jill Stowell: Absolutely. This is LD Expert Live. I’m Jill Stowell and we’re speaking with Paul Madaule, founder and director of The Listening Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. This has been an incredible discussion. I’m also just thrilled that you are able to be here. What last words of encouragement do you have for our viewers today, Paul?
Paul Madaule: Well, I think our work is several things but one of them is our job is to turn a liability into an asset because not only I think having been able to improve an issue or being able to improve an issue, such a learning disability make you more than what you will have been if you wouldn’t have that disability. You have learned – first of all, you have learned to work harder to get what you need. That is something that you are going to keep. You are not going to lose that part. It’s just going to be easier.
Another thing I want to say is that the – there is no age. You know, of course things go a little bit faster and easier at a younger age. But in fact I like to work with adolescents because you can really work with them and not necessarily the parent, which means that you – when you know how to take them and get their attention, you can make themselves becoming proactive about working.
Now it doesn’t always work as nicely as I’m explaining it. But that is a goal and when you can obtain that, you are ahead of the game. Being learning disabled is having a brain which may have worked a little bit different from someone else.
Well, this I think is – again, as I was saying before, an asset. In Quebec, they have an expression that says “Vive la difference,” good to be different. Look at the people who have been successful in the creative world, in the world of business, in the world of technology, having overcome a learning disability. It’s huge! It’s huge. Why? Because they have – it’s like the left-handed golfer – or not golfer. Tennis man. He has something that others do not have and given an edge.
I think – I mean look at me. I made my life and I think it has been quite a successful one and still is. Working – not only having had a learning disability but working, helping people overcome that and that is what children should be told and parents should know about the child. It looks like an obstacle. It certainly looks like a big obstacle during the school years but there is life beyond school and keep that in mind.
Jill Stowell: Absolutely. Well, thank you so much Paul. I encourage everyone to get a copy of Paul’s book When Listening Comes Alive. I found it to be a very valuable reference and resource.
This is LD Expert Live, your place for answers and solutions for learning disabilities, dyslexia and auditory and attention challenges. Thank you again Paul for sharing with us and for the incredible contributions that you have made to the fields of auditory processing, listening and learning.
Lauren Ma: We have a couple of questions. We have Angela. Is there anything we can do at home to improve listening? I think my 8-year-old likely has auditory processing disorder. We are homeschooling now and he has improved a lot but I’d love to help him even more.
Paul Madaule: Yes. There are things which can be done. First of all, control the sound environment. The enemy of – one of the great enemies of someone with auditory processing disorder or this kind of sound listening difficulty is competing noise, which means competing noise but I will generalize the concept of noise into any kind of distractors, OK? The noise can be visual. The noise can be – if you can create an environment which is calm, safe, the child is going to – even if he has some auditory processing issue, he is going to have an easier time getting the information.
Quality of sound, we sometimes forget that a sound has a very wide spectrum, even the sound of language. Very often, new technologies are very efficient but at the cost of quality, which means that the spectrum of sound is cut in order to transmit more sound.
For example, MP3 technology, it’s fantastic except that it cuts the sound. What does it do? It reduces the spectrum of your listening. And that has several drawbacks. If you cut too much the high frequency, and that is very often what happens, you still have enough to hear language. But remember, the whole – well, even when you use your cell phone, you talk, you chat, you chat, and then someone tells you, “And Mr. Tchaikovsky [0:02:15] [Phonetic] has something to – OK, what did you say? Tchaikovsky [Phonetic]. OK.”
And the word Tchaikovsky [Phonetic] is going to take T like et cetera, et cetera, because you do not really hear well every sound. You use your brain to put together the information to permit you to follow conversation but as soon as it becomes from some point of view, technical, or even from a conceptual point of view, technical, your listening cannot follow. Your listening cannot send enough information to the brain for the brain to be operational, which means the quality of sound and particularly when we are talking about working at distance, it is very important to be sure that the quality of the sound is good.
Lauren Ma: And you brought something really important there. I mean all of us as we go through our day with all the distractions and devices and things, our system is kind of filling in the gaps but if your auditory system is already compromised or as Paul said, as soon as you get into really technical or difficult information, the demand gets greater. And so, when I think about all of the kids that have struggled with distance learning and you think, well, the quality of sound often is not as good, there are more distractors, and so if a child already has a compromised auditory system, that’s just going to make it so much more stressful and difficult.
Paul Madaule: I often – fathers in particular, I like to work with fathers. They said, “Can you say at least [0:04:21] [Indiscernible]? I mean we can talk about baseball for hours.” One, you’re the father. He knows your voice which means that he is already conditioned to receiving your voice, not the teacher’s voice. And then if the teacher has a replacement and then whatever, whatever, it’s your voice. It knows it.
First, baseball, not only he knows he loves it but he knows all the rules. You keep talking about baseball. Well, the problem is if the teacher at school is not talking about baseball all day long. If he is doing a good job as a teacher, he is sending new and different information, different word, different concept, different way of presenting phrases and sentences. This is a bigger, much bigger, much bigger challenge for the brain requiring a much better ability to receive the information with clarity and precision, which is better listening.
Lauren Ma: Yeah. Absolutely. We have some parents, this is really resonating for them. This is explaining so much for me and my family. Karen is saying that, “This great information as I think about my son who likes to remain under the radar with his auditory processing disorder.” And Susan asking, “Do you need to have an auditory processing disorder evaluation for listening training?”
Paul Madaule: Not necessarily. We have our own test, which unfortunately we cannot practice anymore. But we have what we call a listening checklist. And when people complete a questionnaire, a personal history questionnaire, we have a series of questions which permits us to have an idea not only if there is a listening issue but is the issue more auditory, auditory-visual, body, vestibular body, body visual, more expressive, more receptive, all those are – is it more a protection issue which is, “I hear too much,” or is it more a processing issue, “I cannot get the information I want?”
We have developed a questionnaire that would give us a profile. And based on this profile, we can design a program. Because every child is different, meaning every child is going to need a certain program. Now as a general outline of our program is very standard in the sense that we reproduce the steps of development starting with receptive. We have to be a listener before we become a speaker. We have to be a speaker before we become a reader. There are a few exceptions. And that is what the listening training is about.
Lauren Ma: She is asking for advice. Basically, she has I think an 11-year-old daughter and she is saying – she is telling her daughter she is going to come out to California and do an intensive with us. And she was explaining this process to her daughter and her daughter was saying, “Well, I don’t want to change. I don’t want to be that smart.”
And so mom is asking for some advice on how to talk to her daughter how to kind of get her excited about this process. It is going to be hard in the sense that the brain is going to change. It is some training. But you kept talking about keeping it fun. And so, any advice for this mom for beginning this process with her daughter when she is right at that age when kids are very self-conscious, that preteen age, very self-conscious and might not understand what it’s going to be like to have improvements without losing a sense of themselves?
Paul Madaule: Well, it’s a very good point and I think I talked about that earlier. The first reaction we have is stay safe. And as soon as we are talking about change, when I have learned to live who I am, to live the way I am is difficult. There is not an easy answer.
One of the ways we have been able to reach out young adolescents, preteens, is having them to talk with another one who have gone through the process. And who is basically, I think, is going to say, “I haven’t changed. I haven’t changed in terms that I can do whatever I want.” That is the difference.
There is no – I think perhaps the word change, for some people who come from the background I’m coming from is something scary. Are you going to change my dreams? No. We are not going to change any dream. You are going to be yourself. Those things that you would like to do. And something that I am doing all the time and I’m teaching people who are working with me to do all the time is forget about school in the first interview. Let’s try to see – and we already have a questionnaire, we are asking people to tell what are the hobbies of the child, and we are trying to focus on trying to find a link between their hobbies and the program that they are going to do.
For example, I don’t know this young lady, but is she interested in sports? Is she interested in acting? Is she interested in – she probably has some interest in some kind of job that she project herself or she has some image of people she would like to emulate that she would like to become like. Well, start with that. Start with who you are and what you want to be and see whatever we are going to do with you as a way to make you access it more easily.
Forget about school. Forget about school. Yes, true, school is what permits you to reach that, give you the paper with the signature on the passport that you can do it officially in the society in which you live. But for now, forget about it. Go for your dreams. What do you dream? What do you dream? What is the star you follow? That is what – whatever the therapy you are going to take in, then talk therapy, talk about program that’s going to make that happen more easily.
Lauren Ma: And I love that term. [0:11:12] [Crosstalk]
Paul Madaule: Ease.
Lauren Ma: Ease, yes. I love that term. So often, people think in terms of, “Oh, I’m going to help you do this better.” Nobody wants to be told they need to do something better.
Paul Madaule: It’s easier.
Lauren Ma: We all want things to be easier.
Paul Madaule: Yes.
Lauren Ma: Yeah.
Paul Madaule: Yeah.
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