What is iLs? Interview with Dr. Ronald Minson

As many of you know, I am starting Integrated Listening Systems (iLs) program with Matthew. When I posted about it over the holiday break on my Facebook page, it stirred up a great deal of questions, curiosity and of course, confusion.

Although I was inspired by Dr. Minson’s presentation at the SPD Symposium, and had the pleasure of speaking with iLS CEO Randall Redfield as well, I am by no means an expert on this system. Like mostt parents with children on the Spectrum, I know exactly what Matthew struggles with, but when it comes to being able to break down all of the “therapy” options out there, some of the details get lost in translation.

I do know what Matthew needs help with. He needs help managing self-regulation, controlling his movement through space (stop crashing, tripping, falling, clumsiness, core strengthening, all will help him stay seated at circle time), writing (spatial awareness on the page), and voice intonation (helping him use correct inflection when speaking – less ‘monotone’ and ‘scripted’). These are my biggest concerns for starting Kindergarten, and my greatest motivation to begin this program now – before summer.  (Update on Matthew's progress at the end of the interview!)

And those challenges are exactly what iLs has the possibility of helping. So, for those of you who have an amazingly gifted and awesome kiddo like Matthew, who just happens to be on the spectrum or have sensory issues, and might benefit from some help in those areas (and others), I wanted to interview Dr. Ronald Minson. And imagine how incredibly honored I was to have him say yes! Woo Hoo!

So, with that, please welcome Dr. Ronald Minson to HLW3B!

Thank you for joining me here today. I appreciate you taking the time to talk with me about the questions that my readers are asking!  Can you start by telling me about yourself? Specifically your background, education and experiences that has led you to be such a supporter of the Integrated Listening System?

My journey with this therapy began almost 30 years ago. It has taught me to have a great deal of empathy for the parents, teachers and therapists whose best efforts to help children learn sometimes fall on deaf ears and the children do not make gains nor improve as anticipated. My lesson in empathy came from my daughter. She was diagnosed early on with dyslexia, and our family immediately entered into the world of recommended therapies with the understanding that these interventions would help her to read, to improve her memory and math skills. After three years of speech and language therapy, special education, and private tutors, my daughter was no further along in her ability to read than she had been at the time of the original diagnosis. In fact, things begin to deteriorate significantly. She could not keep up academically with her peers and she began to label herself as dumb and stupid. On the heels of continued academic failures, she developed low self-esteem, loss of hope from failed interventions, and eventually, life-threatening depression. Antidepressants, the gold standard of treatment for depression, were ineffective.

I was in a full-time psychiatry practice at the time. Nothing in my medical experience had prepared me for this degree of failure. All the experts and specialists were unable to effect any significant improvement in Erica’s learning disability and her depression. I was at a total loss as to how to help my daughter. The frustration and despair from repeated failures to help her were only exceeded by my fear for her life. During a time when my daughter was having a significantly severe bout of depression (she was 19), I heard about listening therapy. As a doctor, this approach did not make any sense to me given my medical training. However as a parent who was watching his daughter fail at every turn, I was determined to try once again one more therapy. My daughter was willing as well. So we, father and daughter, started the listening therapy program together.

What happened next was truly amazing. The changes produced by this intervention were remarkable, if not truly miraculous. My daughter’s life changed. My daughter was able to decode the letter symbols into sounds (phonemic awareness), sequentially process the sounds she heard, and process auditory information. She gained the foundations of reading. My daughter's depression also totally lifted (and has not returned in twenty years). And there were no negative side effects from this intervention. These outcomes were absolutely unexpected.

I soon decided to re-focus my clinical practice to learn and to understand this unique intervention. Could it reduce or even eliminate the need for medications in some cases? Would I be able to help children with learning disabilities like Erica who are falling between the cracks not benefitting from conventional and special education? Would I be able to help others too who are suffering from depression, attention problems, developmental delays and autism? After studying numerous sound therapy approaches and refining my own method over the past 10 years, I can answer with a resounding “yes!”

The results iLs is achieving by augmenting sound therapy with visual and motor activities is further reason for celebration. The combined therapy is more effective than sound alone and we are seeing really exciting results in clinics, classrooms and homes around the world now.

How and why does the iLs system work?

The ability of the brain to change in response to stimulation is known as “neuroplasticity.” iLs is able to effect change through repeated, gentle simultaneous-multisensory stimulation of the brain and nervous system. A fundamental tenet of the iLs philosophy is that higher cognitive function, such as gaining emotional/behavioral control and acquisition of language, reading, attention and reasoning skills depends upon subcortical organization of the nervous system. (Meaning body and sensor-motor organization).

Many interventions are often attempting to put a roof on a weak foundation. The iLs Method aims to achieve this organization before addressing higher cognitive issues. Efficient processing of sensory information doesn’t occur in an immature nervous system. By providing appropriate auditory, visual, motor, proprioceptive and vestibular stimulation, iLs helps the nervous system develop.

NOTE:  You can check out a video of Dr. Minson discussing this here.

What does it entail?

Well, the short answer is that it involves wearing earphones to listen to specially treated classical music while doing the physical movement exercise. Then when the client is ready, we add practicing speaking using a microphone. More specifically, the iLs method entails a combination of three modules of input to the brain. The Ear-Brain Module focuses on giving the brain specific sound inputs (via bone conduction and air conduction) for ear-brain-body integration. Visual-Balance-Coordination Module, done simultaneously focuses on body-based movements to give the brain vestibular, cerebellar, and left/right hemisphere stimulation. The Interactive Language Module focuses on coordinating the brain’s receptive and expressive language centers.

How is it different from the other listening programs available?

It is very different. iLs is the only listening program that 1) combines the auditory input with visual and movement activities and 2) has an interactive language program.

Not all other programs use bone conduction in the headphones which I have used for 20 years; bone conduction is hugely important for children with SPD and Autism because of the vestibular input.

The iLs Interactive Language program is also unique and includes many fun auditory activities for improving auditory processing and functional communication skills.

What kinds of challenges can this therapy help with?

This therapy can help with almost all challenges one sees in a clinical practice. The degree of neurodevelopmental delay or disorganization will determine the final outcome. But almost all challenges will experience some benefit, often profoundly.

How old should a child be to use it? Can a child be too young or too old?

Generally, two years of age and older. However, it can be used during infancy with a professional trained in working with children under one year of age. A professional who has been trained in working with children from birth to 3 has used iLs successfully with a child as young as three months of age.

How do I know which program is right for my child? Can we do more than one?

More than one program is often used. Program choice and length are the decision of the iLs trained professional.

What is the time commitment for this to be effective?

One hour a day, three to five days a week is optimal. I should mention here that ils also trains professionals in an advanced course for use only in the clinic where each program can be individualized. Using iLs in the clinic with other therapy (OT, Speech, PT, etc) in combination has resulted in much more rapid progress and gains. An example of this is the STAR Center in Denver under Dr Lucy Miller who has used the iLs system in her clinic since the beginning.

Since no two children on the autistic spectrum are the same, program lengths can vary anywhere from 40-80 one-hour sessions depending on the child’s needs. For example, children on the autistic spectrum usually do a minimum of 60 one-hour sessions, and depending on the response, may do other programs after the completion of the initial program.

Do the results wear off?

No. Although progress is characterized by what may be called the Mexican Cha-Cha, with 2 steps forward and one step back, the gains once achieved do not wear off baring any adverse event such as a head injury.

Can I do it myself or do I need a therapist to do it?

Both. You purchase the system for home use and are guided in what programs, duration, length and such things by your trained iLs professional.

How much does the system cost?

I believe the ranges for the bone conduction systems, which are recommended for SPD and autism, are $1500-$1800.

Where can parents find a therapist that specializes in iLs?

Just call or email iLs and someone will help you find a therapist. Those that want to do a program at home can do so with the help of an iLs Coach, which comes with the price of the equipment. You can email info@integratedlistening.com.

Where can I find more information or buy a system?

You will find answers to these questions on the iLs website: www.integratedlistening.com.

Thank you so much for allowing me to share my knowledge and experiences with you. Again, my heart goes out to each and every one of you with deep appreciation and gratitude for all you do for your special child.
 Dr. Minson

Thank you Dr. Minson for being so open about your own struggles with your daughter and for providing such great information about the iLs system!  You can connect with them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter as well!


NOTE:  At the time I scheduled this interview post, Matthew has been doing iLs for approximately 3 weeks - and we have made it through 11 sessions.  His progress so far has been nothing short of fantastic.  Given the short amount of time here, I feel that the progress he is making must be attributed to iLs.

In December, at our IEP meeting, the OT put as one of Matthew's goals to imrove his balancing on one leg (in a flamingo stance) from 3-5 seconds to 7-8 seconds.  I am happy to report, that Matthew stood on his favored leg for 22+ seconds this week!  Wow.

Matthew normally runs through the house at full speed in the evenings, often playing chase or some other sort of activity with his brothers, and crashing into everything.  He no longer does this.  He is much more calm and organized well into the evenings.

Matthew has trouble settling down for bed time.  I used to think the bath actually wound him up (and experimented with no bath to no avail), because he would actually jump on his bed like a crazy man when we were 'settling down'.  He doesn't do this any longer.

Normally, it would take Matthew 2+ hours to settle down once in bed.  He was up and down, talking, playing, turning his lights on and in and out of my room 10+ times.  Some nights he wouldn't be asleep until well after 11pm.  He doesn't do this any longer. Now he is in his room reading with us at 8:30pm with lights off by 9pm.  Ocassionally he gest up, but he is NOT jumping or wound up.  He settles in for bed time without the hassel we normally had.  And I have to say, this in particular was WELL WORTH the time and energy we have put into therapy! 

Matthew has spatial awareness issues that show themselves in his art/coloring and writing.  This last week, he brought home a coloring page he actually painted IN THE LINES while following directions with a 'bingo dobber'.  He didn't just use side to side horizontal strokes either - but rounded strokes following the black out line.  That's new.

These all seem like little things.  But as most of you know, it is all of those little things put together that makes life so hard on our kids. 

I am expecting great things in the next few months - as well as some of that "Mexican Cha-Cha" - and will keep you all posted. 

If anyone wants to talk with me more about iLs, feel free to email me or check me out on Facebook.



Trish said...

We did this with our son a few years ago and were very happy with the results. After only a few sessions, I was surprised by my son taking the initiative to buckle his own seatbelt, something he had never tried before and that required more hand strength that he has previously demonstrated.

We were also able to begin potty training shortly thereafter, as he was showing more awareness of what was happening with his body.

A side benefit for us was that the OT providing the therapy was also trained in Floortime, so we got three for the price of one!

In Real Life said...

We saw tremendous results with iLs too!

Patty O. said...

We have been doing iLs since September, and I have been amazed at the results. Within a very short time, my daughter quit waking in the middle of the night and her sensory meltdowns disappeared! That alone was worth the money we paid for the system!

It has also had a calming affect on Danny, which is so helpful! We had to send our system back for a repair and I cannot wait for them to return it! I miss it!

And I should add that the tech support people have been really, really helpful!