Mandy Doman is the Chief Operating Officer at Advanced Brain Technologies and is a leading expert in music listening therapy with over twenty years of experience. Passionate about helping children and adults live their best lives, Mandy focuses on finding brain-based solutions to support their therapeutic or educational interventions and overall health and wellness.
Mandy is a specialist in developing resources, training, and coaching for an international network of providers who use The Listening Program in hospitals, schools, clinics, private practices, and homes. When she’s not improving lives through music, she spends her free time with her husband, three sons, family and friends. Even with all that and being a dedicated homeschool mom, you will find her up before the sun rises reading, meditating, writing, and working out.
In this episode, Mandy tells us about her start in the music listening therapy field, what The Listening Program is and how it works. We discuss the bone conduction technology they use and talk about how it has helped people all over the world. Be sure to watch our video to learn more about Advanced Brain Technology and if The Listening Program might help improve your life or the life of someone you know.
And tune in for her next episode that goes into detail about how to successfully use The Listening Program.
Stay tuned, stay happy and stay kind.
Karen Simmons, Vincent Dela Luna, Mandy Doman
Vincent Dela Luna
Welcome to Mandy Doman from Advanced Brain Technologies, who is using music and sound with bone conduction to help people with autism, and neurodiversity. Hi, Mandy. Welcome.
Vincent Dela Luna
Can you tell us a little bit about how you got involved with autism and neurodiversity?
Ab solutely. Well, I’ve been in the field for about 20 years and working with practitioners. So a number of occupational therapists speech and language pathologist doctors. And so in the very beginning, we work directly with these clinicians and educators as well, to support what they’re doing, especially for children with special needs. And primarily autism. There’s a lot of research that has been done on how music can be used to calm center and connect a child with autism to the world around them. And we start to see that in their day to day interactions, ability to complete their therapies in a more meaningful way. And so in the very beginning, we just wanted to find a natural way to have the ability to help these kids in their home and supported by a clinician, and it was pretty profound to see those impact, the impact that it could have on anything from their ability to start speaking to their ability to process the world around them. And you know, really, so that was how we began in the in the field. But before that, my husband is actually the founder of Advanced Brain Technologies. And he’s a third generation in a family of neuro developmentalists. So his family work, they made tremendous contributions to the understanding of child development, and what it looks like to have a child who is neurologically organized. And then the impact that sound and music can have on that individual’s performance day to day in their life.
Wow. That’s amazing. It is really, really important. Music is plays such a big part in people’s lives that have autism.
Vincent Dela Luna
Yeah, my, my daughter, as you know, I’ve got two kids on the spectrum. My daughter is 10 and a half nonspeaking. Kind of aggressive behaviorally with with everybody except me. But it’s because I communicate with almost purely with music. So all her instructions all getting her prepped for things, involves a song, a little sing along, and she knows the words to all the songs. And when we start doing it and if I if I’m too slow in a song, she started saying the words. So I know that music has an impact. And I know they’re connected. And it’s all I’ve also noticed how certain sounds calm her, and certain sounds within the same song trigger her. And she and she can get aggressive like I told you, we were just visiting the symphony on the weekend. And she would listen and all of a sudden you would see her just calm and relax and smiling. And then certain sounds in the orchestra when they’re played would agitate her, you know? And then she started rocking and shaking and squeezing my arm. And then she’d calm down again depending on on the music being played. How did how did you use Advanced Brain Technologies to use sound and what what types of music and sound are used in the in your process?
So we actually use a lot of classical music. So a lot of Mozart, Vivaldi, Haydn, Beethoven, but we have our own chamber ensemble with the most gifted and I would say like their intention of their their performances, they knew that the purpose of preparing the music for the listening program had an intention behind it to help people to feel calmer, feel more uplifted. And so every musician brought that element into the recording and you can feel that in the music when you’re listening. But in addition to the classical music recordings, we have another beautiful program that uses instruments from every continent on this planet. So we have over 100 instruments, there’s those beautiful little wooden frogs, there are chimes and whistles and big bass drums and the intention is to really help us to feel more connected to sound in a meaningful way. So many of the kids that we work with, they’re either hypo sensitive to sound, meaning they just don’t really perceive it. Or they could be hypersensitive where the sounds actually caused pain and discomfort and can even set off that fight or flight response. So what we hope to do is through these beautiful music recordings, help to retrain and reprogram how the brain is receiving sound, so that that child can be stimulated by it in the right way.
I saw that a lot with my own son, who is now in his 20s. But when he was a little guy, we had a lot of sensitivities going on, he didn’t really understand how to relate to his peers, he was very rigid, had a lot of sensory processing, things that were going on for him too. And, and I think that’s one of the points for this program is that it’s not necessarily intended to be a standalone program. And it supports other things that you’re doing. So for him, we did a lot of other types of neurodevelopmental work with Alex’s father, and, but it definitely complimented everything that we were doing. And part of the reason to that a lot of our therapists turned a listening program is that when we think about someone who is about to go into a therapy session or an educational environment, sometimes there can be an element, an element of anxiety, of, you know, feeling a little bit insecure, not sure what to expect. And so if a therapist is trying to go in and do good work that they’re doing, when that person is not in an optimal receptive place, they’re just not going to get quite as far. So a lot of times we’ll have people use listening program to calm and regulate, feel relaxed, more receptive, and even improve auditory processing so that they can actually understand more of what they’re being taught and be able to integrate the therapies and education. So it is pretty neat to see how those kinds of environments can impact us and the way that music can help to set the stage so that they can be successful in those different environments.
I know one of my really good friends, Dr. Stephen Shore, who is definitely into music, and I spent some time in Hawaii. And I played the French horn, and played Mozart’s french horn concertos and got very grounded in that music I absolutely love. Absolutely love it. So we we just kind of played with our voices, you know, when we played the trombone, and I played the French horn as we were driving around the island, so we just kind of tuned into that. And it was just beautiful. It was absolutely gorgeous.
Oh, I can imagine in that beautiful space, there’s so much. It’s like so serene, and then the music just complements that so nicely.
Vincent Dela Luna
Can you explain the… You guys are using unique technology? I mean, we’ve interacted with lots of music therapists, and people that use music in the world and your diversity. But you guys are kind of in a world on your own here with bone conduction. Can you explain the reason why we you’re using bone conduction?
Yeah, you know, let me start with first of all the headphones, the headphones, we want to have completely surround the ear. So the pinna, our outer ear can actually act as a funnel. So when you’re wearing headphones, the music can provide, you know more of that direct stimulation through the auditory pathway. So if we think about well, why do we use headphones in the first place, so what we realize is that the outer ear or the pinna acts as a funnel, so that we can provide more direct sound through the auditory system so that we can really impact different parts of the brain with our treatments. So we call those treatments neuro acoustic modifications. And what that basically means is that we’re helping to stimulate different parts of the brain with different frequencies of sound. And so we use headphones to deliver The Listening Program.
Although for sensitive listeners, we do have options for Speaker based protocols too but then we take that headphone experience to another level with our multi sensory system, which we call waves, and that actually provide sound through your ears, as well as through the bone conduction pathway, which is your skeletal system. Our brains receive sound through our ears and through our bones. So when we’re providing our listening therapy through those two natural sound waves, we actually have a greater influence on the person’s ability to process the sound receive all the benefits from it, and also become more regulated in response to those gentle vibratory sensations that the bone conduction provides. So basically, when you have those headphones on, there’s a little bone conduction speaker, and that just sits on the top of the person’s head. And then the music is delivered through the body. And it’s a really soothing grounding experience. And most people haven’t experienced that before. So they’re actually pretty engaged and interested in, you know, really understanding it too. So it creates that additional element of interest of the music session.
Vincent Dela Luna
So how if we wanted to meet if we needed it, and we wanted to use it, how does that work? If we have our own OTs and SLPs? Do they use it? Or do we use yours? Do we have to be on site with you? How does that work?
You know, The Listening Program is portable. So it is used in about every setting. So it’s currently in schools, hospitals, residential facilities around the world. It’s also used in private practices and clinics. But most of our families do it in the comfort of their own home. So we’re looking for a 15 to 30 minute period of your time each day by days a week. And we actually have continuing education for providers who are healthcare practitioners. They are, you know, therapists, educators, doctors, and you know, different clinicians that are working with their own caseload. And they can choose to become a certified provider by completing our training course. And then a lot of times, the families that are using the listening program, hear about it, because it’s been recommended to them to support you know, whatever therapeutic or educational goals that they have for their child or their client. But we do have a number of ways that families who don’t currently have a certified provider can access it.
So we have a team that really works to answer questions for the families help identify if this could be a good fit for their child or the person that they’re looking to help. Then we have options where there are self directed ways to access the listening program through an online platform, it’s a really easy option so that you basically can just use your own device, it streams online, all the parent has to do is press play. And the music that’s supposed to be in that child’s playlist just begins to stream online to their own device. But then we have other ways that you can access the program with more guidance and therapeutic monitoring from one of our most experienced clinicians to really oversee how the program is being used to look at headphone compliance activities that would support the goals for you know, each part of the program, and really to make sure that the program is moving with the child and continuing to address and support those emerging skills. So yeah, individuals can use it on their own at home, with or without the support of a trained professional if they’re using the online version. And then if they wanted to own the system, multiple family members can use it. And then they have the support of a clinician to give them their training and guidance.
Vincent Dela Luna
Fantastic. You guys have been around for so long. You must have success stories. Can you share some with us so that we understand the changes and the impacts does have on people’s lives?
Yes, in fact, one of the very first success stories that I recall first really coming in and joining a company back in 2000 was a young man named Michael. And his story was actually published in the occupational therapy international journal. But there were a team of clinicians that worked with him at our local hospital. And what he was initially presenting with back in that day, they were calling it PDD NOS. You know, there were a range of symptoms that they were hoping to see a reduction in. So, you know, he would melt down frequently, he really had a hard time paying attention. He couldn’t make social connections or use social language appropriately. He just seemed kind of in his own world will, you know, would make eye contact really wouldn’t play in that, you know, with imaginary toys or anything like that. It was very, you know, limited as his parents and practitioners would describe. And so they started using the listening program with him. And we actually have a video of his occupational therapist sharing at a conference that he actually showed us a video of Michael at like a school performance. The first video was before the listening program, and everyone was around him singing, playing. And he kind of sat and had his head down. And really, you could tell he did not want to be there, he was very uncomfortable. And then a few months into the listening program was the next school performance. And this time, it was like seeing a different little boy, he was on point, he was dancing, he was clapping and completely engaged and happy and comfortable, and almost looked like he was encouraging the kids around him. So his parents did see a pretty drastic change in a pretty short amount of time. And I think, you know, that was what led to, this was initially a case test to see if this hospital system wanted to bring it on to a larger scale, which they did. And then it went on to be published, but not too long ago, within the last six months, you know, Michael continued to do the listening program. And he wrote a letter to us, and he’s in his 20s. Now, but just to say, you know, now people wouldn’t recognize or didn’t, they wouldn’t even believe that he had such a difficult start in life. He’s very engaged, he’s actually a skater, he’s, he competes, he’s going to college. And of course, he did a lot for him. So you know, we do expect moderate results for most people. But for him, it was something that really helped him to find that connection, and to find that inner balance within his own body and be able to relate to the world so that everything else that his parents were doing, perhaps could be even more effective than if they hadn’t done The Listening Program.
You know, we have so many success stories and having working with practitioners around the world. One of the other things that I think is so meaningful is that a number of the therapists and we’ve trained over 9000 practitioners around the world now, but through the years of getting to know them, and learning from them, and understanding why they’re using the listening program, and why they continue to use it. We’re working with the same practitioners from 2000, all the way up through today. And so you think about all of the kids that they use, the program went through all of these years, and they trust it, they rely on it, it works, they know what to expect when the families are, you know, engaged in doing it consistently. So that’s been a really meaningful part of this work too are those relationships and the ability to understand what what our kids need, what are adults need, and how do we help reach them in a way that doesn’t take a lot of time. And that actually is quite pleasant.
Vincent Dela Luna
I love how rather than forcing them to learn a certain way or walk a certain path, you play music, and you see each person’s individual relationship to the music, and then you work on that. And you use that to bring them to a to a better place. It’s very exciting. It’s very exciting what you’re doing. I think, you know, with my two kids on both sides of the spectrum, we should try it out. And we should have follow up episodes where our audience can actually see changes that have happened with with both kids. My daughter, like I said, very attuned to music. There has a lot of behavior issues, and a lot of self injury. Let’s see what happens there.
My son, I remember his first three years of school, were always I don’t sing and I don’t dance. That’s just what he said. I remember this one time, this outdoor festival in Hawaii. He was convinced probably because his friends were doing it. They did this Mexican hat dance, you know… <sings the tune>. So they’re, they’re dancing around the thing. So he comes up, we move over here. And they asked him to do it again. And I thought, you know, he’s, he’s cured. He does music and now he’s like, No, I don’t see an idol dance. Oh, yes, you do. So no, I don’t. Luckily, I recorded it. And when the moment I said, Look, Nick, you do? And he goes, Oh, okay, I guess I do that. So he started singing and dancing afterwards. But he has his own relationship to music. He’s not as attuned as my daughter is as far as she’ll stop and is attracted as a sound is playing. But he also has his strange way… like many kids on the spectrum. He plays Minecraft heavily. But he doesn’t like the music. So he finds other music that exists in the world, other video game music, and depending on what he’s doing, or if he’s playing Mario, then he will rather listen to Sonic the Hedgehog music while he’s playing Mario. And he mixes his own tracks because I feel like I need more statement for this. And but you know he has a relationship with music.
So music does have an effect on him, I’d love to see how your program affects both of them. It’s very exciting. It’s wonderful. And for our audience, if you want to know more, we have another episode coming up where The Listening Program is a webinar and it teaches what it is how it works, what it’s about, tune in for the next episode, so you can learn about it. And then you can connect directly with Mandy at Advanced Brain Technologies. And maybe we can change your life too. But thank you so much for coming. It was a pleasure having you and learning about what you’re doing. You’re making the world a better place. You’ve been doing it for decades… generations. It’s amazing, great work, please continue what you’re doing. If there’s anything we can do to help you just let us know.
Thank you both so much. It’s been such a pleasure talking with you and sharing our work and just this connection I just think is so incredible. We’re very thankful and would love to just be a reference, a support to your families and to you as well. So thank you for having me on.
Vincent Dela Luna
Thank you. I’m looking forward to the results. Yes. Take care. Thank you.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai