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The Safe and Sound Protocol is based on the Polyvagal Theory, developed by Dr Stephen Porges at the University of Indiana.

This non-invasive intervention involves listening to music that has been processed specifically to retune the nervous system (regulating state) to introduce a sense of safety and the ability to socially engage. This allows a person to better interpret not only human speech but, importantly, the emotional meaning of language. Once interpersonal interactions improve, spontaneous social behaviours and an enhanced ability to learn, self-regulate and engage are often seen.

The Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP) is safe, effective, enjoyable for children and adolescents, and proven to:

  • Decrease anxiety and trauma-related behaviours
  • Decrease auditory sensitivities
  • Enhance social engagement and participation
  • Improve emotional regulation
  • Increase resilience
  • Improve attention
  • Improve ability to focus at school
  • Promote a calmer emotional and physiological state

Previous research into the SSP has focused on the effectiveness of the intervention with children and adolescents with an ASD diagnosis, however, recent research indicates it may also be effective for children with mental health issues, learning difficulties, ADHD, or a history of trauma.

At Gateway Health we conduct the Measure of Foundational Abilities (MFA) assessment prior to participation in the SSP, and then again six weeks following the intervention.

The MFA uses a rating system for each of the following domains:

  1. Balance, gross and fine motor control
  2. Sensory sensitivities
  3. Social and emotional development
  4. Auditory and language
  5. Organisation, attention and cognition
  6. Sleep

Participating children, when re-assessed, experienced reductions in scores of up to 80 points, with children typically showing the greatest reduction in the domains where they previously showed the most difficulty. Children who were participating in other therapies or support services in conjunction with the SSP were noted to have greater improvements and score reductions.

SSP is a viable alternative to more intrusive therapies, and to the use of medication, however can still be used alongside these options, as it has been shown to enhance the effectiveness of other therapies due to the child’s increased ability to engage.

Access

Children aged from 0-18 can access the Safe and Sound Protocol (SSP).

The SSP is ideally delivered in one-hour sessions over five consecutive days, but can also be delivered as five hour-long sessions spread over two weeks.

Parents can participate with the child or young person if they wish.

This service is primarily offered as an NDIS funded activity. Children with NDIS plans can use their NDIS plan to pay for the service.

Email our NDIS team for more information and to access this service – NDIS@gatewayhealth.org.au.

Children who are not on an NDIS plan and who are already participating in the Child Health Intervention and Parent Support (CHIPS) program can access the service for free on recommendation from their CHIPS worker.

Contact Gateway Health intake –

More information

Visit the Integrated Listening website.

The Polyvagal Theory: The New Science of Safety and Trauma

Last Update: August 13th, 2021