The Safe and Sound Protocol is a little known healing modality. Along with a few other therapeutic interventions, it falls under the heading of “ILS,” or Integrated Listening Systems.
I first became aware of the Safe and Sound Protocol, or SSP, last summer. Upon hearing about it, I was immediately intrigued and wanted to know more. Most interesting to me was the concept of possible anxiety reduction.
Mr. Bean and I have two children from hard places, and their anxiety manifests in a myriad of ways. Anxiety is a notorious beast to tame, and makes so many things challenging. Transitions, sleeping, school … so many things about living just become arduous. So, finding out about a possible non-invasive therapy, administered in less than one week, that doesn’t break the bank, won’t hurt, and might just help, gave me a tremendous glimmer of hope for our family.
Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, now that we’ve been through the protocol, and seen some beautiful shifts, I’d like to share our experience. In the spirit of full disclosure, I am not an affiliate with ILS. This is just me to you, a fellow mama who is down in the muddy trenches of parenting kids from hard places, wanting to offer you one more idea that might just help.
What is the Safe and Sound Protocol?
The SSP, is a non-invasive five (5) day treatment. For real??? Yes! Just five days! It is based on Dr. Stephen Porges’ work on the Polyvagal Theory. In summary, the SSP, is an “intervention designed to reduce stress and auditory sensitivity while enhancing social engagement and resilience.” 1
What the SSP looks like, in real life, is listening to headphones for one hour a day, for five days straight. Sounds easy enough, right? It is, and its not. Here are some challenges we had with completing this modality in five days:
- Each day, the child needs to listen to the SSP music, using the headphones, for (ideally) one continuous hour. (You can take a break at the half-way point, but I tried not to.)
- During that hour, the child is (ideally), still.
- The therapy should (ideally) be administered in a quiet environment.
Because of these factors, we had limited windows of time in which to complete it. My kids go to bed early (typically by 7:00), and the only quiet hours we usually have are after that. 🙂 So in order to get my 6-year old to complete the SSP, we pulled some “late nights.” It was the only way to get it in.
My Secrets to Getting it Done!
To get the optimal therapeutic benefits of the Safe and Sound Protocol, you have got to just Get. It. Done. Period. Your situation may look different. Here is what we did.
I had to get creative in finding ways to engage my son for the full hour without interruption. For two of the nights, we sat with just a container of Theraputty. <affiliate link> And maybe a Hot Wheels car. 🙂 Sounds minimal, but with some persistence on my part, we eventually settled in to a special time of non-verbal play. That alone was actually great for both of us, and our relationship (all therapy aside!).
The first night, completing the full hour was a challenge because once the novelty of the headphones wore off (about 15 minutes in), he told me, “I’m all done,” and tried to take the headphones off. I just smiled, slid the headphones back up, and continued silently holding and playing with him. And somehow, we eventually made it to the end of Day 1.
Another night, we did a similar quiet, interactive playtime using kinetic sand. And by about the second or third night of the SSP, my very spirited boy was asking me if we were going to “do headphones tonight.” I actually believe that may have been one of the first glimpses of the therapeutic effects of SSP. Because not only was he finishing his hour easily by the end, but he was looking forward to that one-on-one time with me, “late” at night, playing together. Also, I’m sure you can think of lots of other quiet activities you could do to pass an hour with your kiddo. 🙂
Changes We Have Noticed
I’m not going to tell you that all of our problems are gone. 🙂 A brain with trauma will never not be a brain without trauma. HOWEVER, since completion of this round of the SSP, we have noticed the following changes:
- Increased ability in using words to get needs met. We are still a work in progress, but this is so much better!
- Explosion of social skill development. This child has significantly broadened his network of friends.
- A greater level of flexibility. When things don’t go as planned, it isn’t (always) the end of the world.
- Advancement in drawing ability. Whereas last year, in the first year of a Waldorf Kindergarten program, he was filling his coloring page with a single color of scribble, he is now drawing lizards in the rain, robots, and squirrels on a tree.
- Reduction in the “anxious noise” sounds. Having volunteered in his classroom for the past two years, I have seen a huge shift.
- Ability to (more) quickly move forward from a tense situation/redirect/conflict.
- Increased overall level of confidence and willingness to approach new situations.
A Few Things to Note
You may notice that I said “this round” of the SSP. I feel pretty sure we will be doing another round of the SSP at some point in the future. As Sweet Potato is growing up, she will soon be ready to tackle it, too.
When you rent the ILS equipment, everyone in your family can use the equipment … for the same price. (The grown ups benefit from this, too!) So this first round, it was just Little Bean and I. But everyone can do it.
You might be wondering what you’re listening to, right? I thought the music was very “listenable.” Most of the child selections were Disney songs that my son instantly recognized. The adult selections were generally “easy listening” types of tunes.
Overall, I’m so thankful we stumbled upon this therapy, and found a local provider who we were easily able to work with for the equipment rental. If you have any questions about the Safe and Sound Protocol, feel free to shoot me a message! I love talking about this! And if you’ve done it and have experiences to share, I’d love to hear about them, too.