Safe and Sound Protocol

Jul 23, 2018

You may have heard of the Integrated Listening Systems (iLs) sound therapy program we often use with the kids who come to The Children’s Therapy Center, Inc. That is an auditory, vestibular, and ocular-motor program that helps children with a variety of issues that can include poor self-regulation, motor incoordination, sensitivity to sound and delayed speech. (For more information on iLs, please refer to our blog from November 2016).

The Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP) is also an auditory therapy that is offered by the iLs company, but it is very unique. Based on the Polyvagal Theory developed over decades of research by Dr. Stephen Porges, the Safe and Sound Protocol consists of specially produced popular music listened to with headphones over five consecutive days in 1-hour sessions. The child is with his therapist, and parents are encouraged to attend to help the child engage in social interactions. Participants are kept entertained and focused on fun quiet tasks such as crafts and easy construction toys to enhance participation and encourage more active listening. While they are kept calm in a quiet and safe environment, the therapist or parents are available to engage socially when the child desires. Otherwise, the adults remain quiet, and there are no screen-based electronics allowed. Aside from the obvious difference of being much shorter than the traditional iLs program, this program works differently and has different goals.

The Polyvagal Theory addresses the origins of the difficulties some of our kids have with social interactions and processing speech. If the child’s emotional state is stressed or confused, her nervous system is working overtime on trying to calm her down. This heightened behavior state makes the child unavailable for noticing or learning the subtleties that come with social interactions such as reading emotions and processing similar words correctly. The SSP delivers specially processed music to calm the child’s behavior state down using specific nervous system pathways such as the vagus nerve. It specifically targets the small frequency within which the human voice occurs using a variety of popular tunes thereby helping the nervous system to better process speech. Using it over the five sessions trains those pathways to be less stimulated and irritated. There are both child and adult versions of the SSP.

Pre- and post-questionnaires are filled out by the parent to gauge effectiveness. The end goals of the SSP include enhanced social interaction, improved attention, engagement, decreased auditory sensitivity, reduced anxiety, reduced emotional lability, and improved speech and language. When the child is more relaxed and feels safe, he is much more able to be engaged with those around him and is able to take in and process what he needs to keep up in social situations. An enhanced ability to learn in school and therapy are often enhanced aside from more age appropriate social skills. Appropriate clients for this therapy program include those with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, decreased eye contact and decrease social engagement.

More information is available on the iLs website: 

Please contact our office or your therapist to learn more, 281-480-5648.

Nancy E.A. Weiss, MOT, OTR/L

Return to blogs.