Quackery Exposed: Naturcare Relaxation Sound Ball (TW ABA)

Naturcare relaxation sound ball is essentially a white noise machine. It was created by Mary-Louise Montague. It is supposed to help children who have hyperacusis. Hyperacusis is a disorder in loudness perception. People with this condition may appear sensitive to a range of sounds, finding many sounds unbearable and painfully loud.

There was a study using this device published in the International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology, which is backed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, so the journal is legit.

Hyperacusis is common with children with Bell’s palsy, Meniere’s diseases, perilymph fistula and sensinural Deafness. It is also common among autistic children. They only think the children experience fear and anxiety not pain even if they appear to be in pain.

Using Noise Desensitization in Combination with ABA

In this study, there is a detailed interview with the child and parents. They create a comprehensive list of songs that are a challenge, all elements of the reaction to the sound, how the child is coping, what the family does, how long this has been an issue, any other medical diagnosis.
The child is not involved in this interview process. They only ask the parents. They don’t ask how the child feels when subjected to the painful stimuli. This is parent centered, not child centered.
If they qualify for the study, they are given a Naturcare Relaxation Sound ball. It comes prerecorded with seven different sounds of nature which include heart beats, bird song, babbling brook, woods, rain and white noise. It is given to children to use at night time while they sleep for a minimum of a 6-8 hour period. They are offered to renew every 6 months.  They were to do this in conjunction with “behavioral therapy” which everyone knows is ABA.

Why This is Problematic

ABA by itself is extremely problematic. This study uses a method called systematic desensitization. It is a type of counter conditioning that involves conditioning the child to substitute one response to a stimuli for another.  Thier idea is to substitute muscle relaxation for an unwanted response like fear and anxiety.  Thier definition is gradually exposing someone to increasingly unpleasant or fear inducing items or circumstances while having them practice relaxation techniques in order to reduce fears or phobias.
This is done by imagining anxiety producing situations in a sequence from least fearful to the most fearful until the anxiety reaction extinguish. They claim that using this harmful practice removes fear and rewires the brain.
This is also called graduated exposure therapy. It was pioneered by a South African psychiatrist named Joseph Wolpe who was working with soldiers experiencing PTSD. This method does not reduce the pain, it just forces the autistic to mask and pretend that it is not causing distress.
The sounds don’t cause anxiety, they are painful. The anticipation of the sounds cause the anxiety because the pain does not want to be felt.  No amount of densisitization extinguishing ABA is going to make it less painful. The feeling of pain just gets bottled up inside with no release at all.

Just because it works does not mean it is ethical. This method is also used in cognitive behavior therapy.

Sources:

https://www.ucsfhealth.org/conditions/hyperacusis

https://www.researchgate.net/journal/International-Journal-of-Pediatric-Otorhinolaryngology-0165-5876

ABA Jargon: Systematic Desensitization

https://www.appliedbehavioranalysisedu.org/what-is-graduated-exposure/

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