Strong Institute

Creator of Rhythmic Entrainment Intervention™

REI Custom Program

Address a Wide Range of Issues with Our
All-inclusive Auditory Brain Stimulation Program

“Our daughter has had very few temper tantrums. She is also developing the ability to stop herself and calm herself down, usually within about one minute of when the recording starts. She’s been getting along much better with her brothers and sisters. Her attention span has increased--she can sit quietly and read a book for longer periods of time. She’s paying attention more in school and staying on task.”

- ​Lisa D. Mother of an 8 year old with AD/HD

REI Custom Program Draws From Over Three Decades of Research

Rhythmic Entrainment Intervention™ (REI) is an auditory brain stimulation program that uses musical rhythm to stimulate and re-pattern neurological function. A unique blend of modern advances in brain research and ancient rhythmic techniques, REI facilitates long-term behavioral and cognitive improvement in individuals with neurological disorders.

REI was borne out of ethnomusicological research REI creator Jeff Strong began in the early 1980’s. For over a decade Mr. Strong immersed himself in time-tested rhythmic techniques, studying with traditional practitioners from around the world. He then extracted the core mechanisms of these techniques and began researching them in a controlled setting.

After 11 years of extensive clinical and scientific research, including several double-blind, placebo-controlled studies, Mr. Strong and the Strong Institute research staff identified hundreds of rhythmic combinations that correspond to specific behavioral and cognitive symptoms. This research resulted in two important findings:

  • Exposure to specific musical rhythm patterns elicits immediate calming and focusing effects.
  • Repeated exposure to these rhythms results in long-term behavioral and cognitive improvements.

The REI Custom Program was created in 2004. Careful collection and analysis of data have allowed the composition, protocols and efficacy of the program to continually evolve. The current REI Custom Program is the most effective presentation of REI to date.

The Only Completely Custom-made Auditory Program

We learned early on while developing the REI Custom Program that each person responds to a different type and level of stimulus. Our first formal institutional study in 1994 used custom-made recordings, employing the same protocol as our earliest research. That is, REI creator Jeff Strong performed live for each subject while the listener's responses were tracked. A recording was made based on this data. This recording was then played once a day and adjusted as the listener progressed.

This process has varied only slightly in the last 2 decades. Though Jeff rarely performs live for a client, our focus on customization is stronger than ever: We ensure you receive the progressive stimulation that meets your needs.

As you complete the REI Custom Program Intake process, we identify the major issues you face and create a map of the appropriate stimulation to meet your goals. We use sophisticated algorithms to assemble the proper rhythms for your first REI Audio Track; each subsequent track is created in 14-day intervals according to your progression through the program.

This ensures the most efficient and effective program possible. Indeed, this is where we excel: Custom stimulation for optimal client improvement. 

Your REI Custom Program Is Created Just For You

Whether you experience anxiety or overwhelm, or feel disconnected from your sensory environment, we will create the optimal program to help you accomplish your goals across ten symptom areas:

  • Anxiety
  • Attention, hyperactivity, impulsivity
  • Behavioral issues
  • Cognitive issues
  • Language and communication
  • Mood issues
  • Self-stimulatory behaviors
  • Sensory processing issues
  • Sleep issues
  • Social skills

Join the Thousands Who Have Successfully Used This Innovative Program

Since 1994, the REI Custom Program™ has been used successfully by tens of thousands of people from around the world. Our clientele consists of both children and adults who come to us with a variety of conditions, including:

  • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD, ADHD, AD/HD)
  • Autism
  • Asperger's Syndrome
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Depression
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Pervasive Developmental Disorder
  • PTSD
  • Sensory Processing Disorders
  • Sleep Disorders
  • Traumatic Brain Injury

You Will Gain Significant Improvements with This Innovative Progrm

The unique composition and severity of your symptoms will be our guide in crafting your REI Custom Program. Symptom areas where we see improvements with the REI Custom Program include:

  • Anxiety - Includes anxiety related issues.
  • Attention/focus/hyperactivity - Includes attention-related issues including the classic symptoms of ADD.
  • Behavioral issues - Includes issues such as aggression, compliance, tantrums, and others.
  • Cognitive issues - Includes symptoms related to cognition such as memory, reasoning, and others.
  • Language/communication - Includes issues related to language and communication including speech and writing.
  • Mood issues - Includes general mood issues as well as symptoms of depression and bipolar disorder.
  • Self-stimulatory behaviors - Includes behaviors such as rocking, flapping, toe-walking, vocal perseveration, and others.
  • Sensory Processing - Includes sensory defensive and sensory seeking behavior.
  • Sleep - Includes issues related to falling and staying asleep.
  • Social Interaction - Includes issues related to social interaction and engagement.

Once you begin, the REI Custom Program's interactive online platform and tracking ensures that you are always getting the stimulation that you need based on your real-world performance. Remember, each new track of your program is dynamically engineered in response to your weekly progress.

In the case of the CD-based program, you initially receive 2 CDs. We make additional CDs based on your response to these CDs.

Choose From Three Audio Formats

The REI Custom Program is compatible with any device:

Cloud-based Streaming

Hi-res MP3 Downloads

CDs Sent to Your Home


The REI Custom Program

The REI Custom Program is a home-based auditory brain stimulation program that uses musical rhythm to stimulate and re-pattern neurological function. A unique blend of modern advances in brain research and ancient rhythmic techniques, REI facilitates long-term improvement in sensory processing.

Your REI Custom Program is custom created for you based on your unique 10-symptom profile: this is the key to our program. Whether you experience anxiety, inattention, sensory sensitivities, cognitive issues, insomnia, mood issues, or issues with spatial orientation, we deliver the proper stimulus to achieve your individual goals.

Once you begin, the REI Custom Program's interactive online platform and tracking ensures that you are always getting the stimulation that you need based on your real-world performance. Each new track of your program is dynamically engineered in response to your weekly progress.

The REI Custom Program is a Complete Solution

Our core program is a comprehensive home-based therapy consisting of:

• 12 Custom-created REI Audio Tracks. These twelve custom REI audio tracks employ progressive stimulation techniques made just for you and your responses to the music. Just as no two people are the same, you require unique stimulus to achieve the best results.

• Unlimited client support to make sure that you are indeed getting the best stimulation for your needs. We work closely with you to make certain you see significant improvements.

• 7 Brain Shift Radio audio downloads that can be used anytime you want additional benefits. These tracks include: Noisy Room Sleep, Revving-up Focus, Energy Boost, PowerNap Mix, Memory Boost, Big Round Calm, and Mood Lifter.

• Jeff Strong's Different Drummer book download to give you an understanding of how REI developed and how to best implement your program.

The REI Custom Program is Easy to Use

The REI Custom Program is home-based and requires no special equipment.

Play Your REI Custom Calm track once a day.

You can stream or download from your phone, tablet or computer. Tracks average between 22 and 26 minutes.

Play the track quietly in the background.

There is no need to actively listen to the music or to use headphones.

Check in with us at the recommended intervals.

You will receive an email every seven days asking you to complete your track adjustment feedback.

Get Started Today

Now Just $89 per month

Not Sure If this Program is For You?

Call 800-659-6644 or email contact@stronginstitute.com

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Jeff Strong

Creator of Rhythmic Entrainment Intervention (REI)

About the Program Creator

Jeff Strong is the creator of Rhythmic Entrainment Intervention™ (REI) and the Director and CEO of the Strong Institute, a research center and provider of evidence-based custom auditory brain stimulation programs. He is also the co-founder of Brain Shift Radio, a streaming music site containing personalized music to enhance brain function.

Jeff is a percussionist, composer, recording engineer, researcher, clinician, and a sought-after expert on the therapeutic use of rhythm. He is the best-selling author of eight books, including AD/HD For Dummies and Different Drummer: One Man’s Music and Its Impact on ADD, Anxiety, and Autism.

What Professionals Are Saying About the REI Custom Program

“I've had the BEST therapeutic effect with REI...”

"I have been trained in many 'listening' and music programs - and, to date, I have had the BEST therapeutic effect with REI. It is, by far, easier to implement than any other program, and from my perspective it has the most benefit and positive therapeutic changes!"

Theresa Garrison, OTR - Occupational Therapist

“My clients have experienced incredible gains...”

“The work that the REI Institute has done over the last 10 years is remarkable! My patients have experienced some incredible gains using the program. I am excited to have the opportunity to offer this program to the clients in my clinic.”

Jennifer Griffith, OTR - Occupational Therapist

“I loved all the information...”

"Let me say how much I enjoyed the training program! I loved all of the information and the format you used to present it. I have been through other 'sound' training programs and this was by far the best. I am excited to begin using REI."

Deb Wellmes, SLP - Speech-Language Pathologist

“I've seen improvements in all my clients...”

“I became a provider because there is research behind it. And many other programs that claim to be similar don’t have research behind them... I’ve seen improvements in all my clients."

Barbara Taylor, M.S., CCC-SLP - Speech-Language Pathologist

...There have been positive changes with every patient who has used REI.”

“My experience REI has been overwhelmingly positive. It’s not a silver bullet...but there have been positive changes with every patient who have used it.”

Lisa Matthews, OTR - Occupational Therapist

What Clients Are Saying About Rhythmic Entrainment Intervention (REI)

“She is much calmer after REI...”

“Our daughter has had very few temper tantrums. She is also developing the ability to stop herself and calm herself down, usually within about one minute of when the recording starts.

She’s been getting along much better with her brothers and sisters. Her attention span has increased--she can sit quietly and read a book for longer periods of time. She’s paying attention more in school and staying on task.”

Lisa D. - Mother with 8 year-old with ADD

We turned on the music and he responded instantly...”

“When we had the CD made, we put it in while he was in a session with his craniosacral therapist. He responded instantly! His system was calming down, and to the surprise of his therapist, he started vocalizing. …

We went from nothing to something with vocalizing… He is now starting to put sentences together, and I’m very pleased.”

Leslie J. - Mother with 19 year-old with autism

“I'm less anxious, more awake, more centered...”

“My REI Custom Program definitely helps me with falling asleep more quickly, better quality of sleep, and more energy to face the day. I really feel the differences, day to day. I’m less anxious, more awake, more centered. I feel more of a sense of groundedness...”

Kristen K. - 28 year-old with anxiety and sleep issues

“He is less tactically sensitive...”

“We would definitely recommend the REI Custom Program™ to other parents with children on the Autism Spectrum. We tried other therapies including the Gluten/Casein Free Diet and the Tomatis Listening Program with mixed results. We have definitely seen improvements with our son while on the REI Custom Program.”

David S. - Father of a 9 year-old with autism

More About Rhythmic Entrainment Intervention

Following are a series of articles and videos exploring Rhythmic Entrainment Intervention.

We've Focused on Calm for Over 20 Years

Since our first clinical study in 1994, we have focused on how to reduce anxiety and induce calm. For ten years our research examined children and adults on the autism spectrum. This population proved to be an excellent anxiety-based arena for two reasons:

1. People with autism often have a lot of anxiety. And anxiety can rule much of their behavior. A child may tantrum when asked to enter a noisy, stimulating environment like a restaurant or shopping mall (or school lunchroom) or an adult may react aggressively when sharing mealtime with others.

Observing anxiety in people with autism is easy and noticing changes, however small, becomes simple. The cessation of crying in a tantrumming child or halting of aggressive behavior in an over-stimulated adult is an obvious measure of a reduction in anxiety.

2. Because autism is characterized by an inability to socially engage in an appropriate manner or an inability to communicate wants or needs, many people with autism have little to no awareness that some music (or other intervention) is going to be calming. And if they have such awareness, many have no idea how to self-regulate to calm on command.

This effectively removes the placebo effect. And because we are not using self-observed changes in anxiety, but instead use behavioral measures, we further remove any effects of the participants' expectation from the studies. Either a tantrum stopped or it didn't.

Our First Study Showed Significant Anxiety Reduction

Our first study was conducted in a public school setting with children between 6 and 12 years old. In this study we tracked immediate anxiety reducing effects as well as long-term changes in anxiety levels. In other words, we wanted to see if listening to REI Rhythms would reduce anxiety as it happened (ending a tantrum, for example) and whether any residual calming effect would result in changes of overall behavior.

Immediate calming effects were significant. Nearly all the participants were calmed most of the time.

The average frequency of time calmed by the recordings was 86.4%.

As far as overall changes in anxiety levels, we also saw significant changes as an average based on the pre and post tests. In the pre-test, average anxiety was listed at 82 on a 100 point scale. Anxiety on average after the study was reduced to 38 on a 100 point scale. This represents a significant reduction in anxiety over this 8-week period when the REI Rhythms were played quietly in the background.

You can read the entire study here​

Subsequent Studies Support These Results

Follow-up studies with autism as well as other conditions such as Anxiety Disorders, Attention Deficit Disorders, and Sleep Disorders, showed similar reductions in anxiety while listening to REI music.

For example, a study conducted in a residential facility for adults with severe autism showed significant changes in anxiety levels both facility-wide and in indivdual behavior.

One resident was extremely aggressive before the study began, often injuring other residents or the staff. Before the study, incidents were reported several times per week. Within two weeks of beginning using the REI recording, his aggressive outbursts virtually stopped. And they remained rare for the entire study period and extended follow-up of 6 months.

You can read the entire study here​

In another recent study, children within a public school showed significant reduction in anxiety-based behaviors while listening to REI rhythms. This study followed 10 students and showed reductions in behaviors in the following areas:

  • Generalized anxiety
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Agressive behaviors
  • Self-stimulatory behaviors
  • Sound sensitivity

As the study states: Anxiety reduction can take many forms, especially with the large variation of symptomatic behaviors and characteristics present in children on the autism spectrum.

You can read the entire study here​

Our Programs All Start with Calm

Way back in 1992, our original studies successfully reduced anxiety in children and adults on the Autism Spectrum. Jeff Strong has since continued to expand his ability to create calm.

Today, our clientele present a variety of diagnosis. With each and every client, no matter what their initial goals may be, we have always begun with calm. Once we calm the nervous system, all sorts of wonderful gains may be made.

Whether you experience general anxiety or have a diagnosis that defines a broader range of challenges, we can address your unique presentation of anxiety and bring you to a calmer state of being.

We are able to reduce the anxiety that lies beneath any variety of conditions. Our clientele consists of both children and adults who come to us with anxiety-based behaviors.

The REI Custom Program Tackles Anxiety with a Two-fold Approach

Immediate Calm

Our first goal is to create an immediate sense of calm. We begin by injecting novelty to break the habitual anxiety response, followed by entraining the brain to a relaxed neurological state.

This stops a panic attack, a tantrum, an emotional outburst, or any of the fight or flight responses.

The more often you use the REI to stop a anxiety attack, the more easily – and quickly –your brain shifts to a calm state.

Long-term Change in Anxiety

Secondly, we teach your brain how to achieve a relaxed state on its own. We do this by providing progressive stimulation. Each of the tracks in our programs build on the previous track and teaches your brain how to respond from a more resourceful space.

This means that you will no longer feel that sense of dread. Your brain will respond to the world from a relaxed state. and no longer automatically enter a primitive, adrenaline-infused, brain response.

Don't just take our word for it. Here are some real-life examples of anxiety reduction with REI.

Giselle Sees Big Changes in Social Anxiety and Fatigue

When Giselle began REI she was experiencing severe fatigue in the afternoons, which required her to go home from work at lunch to take nap in order to have the energy necessary to finish her day. As well, she described having feelings of anxiety for which she was seeing a therapist. She chose to try to REI Custom Program after using Calming Rhythms for her nap and noticing that she had more energy after listening to it.

After 1 1/2 weeks of using her REI Custom Program recording #1, she described that she had much more energy and didn’t feel the need to go home at lunch to take a nap. Instead she played her CD while she ate lunch. As well, so found that she spontaneously left her apartment one evening to go on a walk. Prior to this occasion she would need to get in her car from the basement garage and drive a few blocks in order to take a walk due to her anxiety over leaving the front door of her apartment building. She had been working on this issue in therapy for several years with no improvement until beginning the REI recordings.

After 8 weeks on REI, Giselle has much more energy and didn’t experience the afternoon fatigue that she had in the past. She also fond herself no longer having anxiety about leaving her apartment building on foot and took her daily walk without needing to drive her car from her building. She was continuing to listen daily to recording #2 during her lunch break.

Michael's Motor and Vocal Tics Stopped and His Anxiety Decreased

At the beginning of his REI Custom Program, Michael’s tics were present most of time, usually starting just an hour or so after waking in the morning and continuing until bedtime. His vocal tics included grunting and throat-clearing while his motor tics consisted of lip-smacking and picking, neck-rubbing, and finger-bending.

The degree and intensity of his tics seemed to be related to his anxiety and energy level. If he was tired, he exhibited more tics. Likewise, when he was anxious, his tics were more pronounced.

Michael also exhibited high levels of other anxieties. These centered around fear of new places, unexpected events, and separation from his parents. On a good day he was able to go to school without clinging and displayed only minor trepidation toward new or unexpected situations, such as an unscheduled trip to the store or an event outside his normal routine. His anxiety exhibited itself as clinginess, crying, and tic behavior, most notably vocal tics.

Early in his REI Program, Michael exhibited less anxiety over everyday changes, such as going to school or therapy sessions, where he is separated from his mom. His sleep also improved. His vocal tics were slightly less frequent, while his motor tics remained pretty much the same.

Midway into the program his parents noted that his motor tics remained somewhat variable, but their frequency overall was down from the beginning of the program. Stressful situations, as expected, increased his tic activity. Because his anxiety overall was lower than when he began the program, he seemed to be less bothered by situations that used to be stressful for him.

The vocal tics were essentially absent and there were longer periods of time with few, if any, motor tics. At one point during this period he caught a cold and his tics increased. They reduced again once his cold was over. This demonstrated more overall improvements but also suggested that stress on his system, both physically and psychologically, still had an impact on his tic behavior.

By the end of the REI program, Michael made significant gains in his sleep, anxiety, and tic behavior, with minor changes in some of his ADHD-type symptoms.

Read the entire case study here​

Kathleen Learned to Manage Anxious Thoughts and Began Sleeping Better

Before beginning the program Kathleen's sleep was poor. She would often fall sleep within an hour of going to bed but she generally woke several times a night and had trouble getting back to sleep because she worried about things. She also experienced anxious thoughts throughout the day. The worst times were when she drove in her car. This anxiety often resulted in her getting disoriented and feeling lost even when on familiar roads. She also wouldn’t travel on a plane. In addition Kathleen was disorganized and often missed appointments.

After about 3 weeks using the REI Custom Program, Kathleen began sleeping through the night. In the rare occasions where she did wake up at night, she found that she could turn REI recording #1 on and her anxious thoughts would quickly dissipate.

At the 8-week point of listening, she was consistently sleeping through the night with only the occasional night where she woke up. Again, turning on REI recording #1 would help her get back to sleep within 20 minutes (the length of the REI recording). She found that she was more energetic during the day and was more organized. She also began implementing an organizational system to help to keep on top of things. As a result she hadn’t missed any appointments in six weeks. Her anxiety during the day had reduced significantly - she was able to drive to and from work without getting anxious, though she still didn’t feel comfortable driving anywhere new.

After 16 weeks, Kathleen was still sleeping well - only woke occasionally at night but would be able to get back to sleep quickly by playing her REI recording. She continued to improve in her ability to manage her anxious thoughts. She took a plane to a conference for the first time.

After 5 years, she reported that her sleep was still good and her overall anxiety level was still very low even though she hadn’t heard her REI recording in three years.

Jeff Strong Talks About Stopping Anxiety Attacks or Aggressive Behavior

This video Jeff Strong demonstrates how complex drumming can be used to stop an anxiety attack or aggressive behavior.

Get Started Today

Now Just $89 per month

Not Sure If this Program is For You?

Call 800-659-6644 or email contact@stronginstitute.com

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How I Use REI Drumming for Sensory Processing

This is an excerpt from Jeff Strong's Different Drummer book describing how he approaches sensory processing.

Sensory processing issues are common among the people I work with. In fact, sensory challenges are part of nearly everyone who falls into the developmental disability spectrum, including people with ADHD and autism. Sensory processing issues come in three basic forms: sensory-defensive, sensory-seeking, and poor sensory discrimination.

Sensory defensiveness is characterized by being easily overstimulated by sensory input. This is the child who recoils to touch, won’t wear shoes, covers his ears in response to loud noises, gets dizzy easily, or throws up in the car.

Easily overstimulated people constitute most of my clients with sensory issues. I work to reduce their sensitivity to stimulation by giving their brains more stimulation.

“What do you mean by stimulation?” Laurel asked. “Emily is always overstimulated. Why would you add more, and how could it calm her down?” This was one of the first questions she asked me after I began to work with her daughter, Emily.

From her very first track, Emily responded immediately and decisively to the drumming. After just one listening, her emotional outbursts increased and her sleep, already poor before the Program, deteriorated further. Upon her first night on the Program she needed to be held by her mother to calm down.

Laurel and I quickly discovered that Emily needed less stimulation, far less than a Program usually begins with. In fact, I had to step down the level of stimulation on her tracks to a point lower than what was on our ‘stimulation low enough for anyone’ Calming Rhythms CD. Once we determined a stimulation level she could tolerate, we were then able to slowly begin adding more stimulation and progressively build her tolerance to address her sensory issues.

“Stimulation is related to the complexity of the rhythms on the track,” I described to Laurel. “I have built a series of rhythmic structures, varying in their length and complexity, for each symptom.

“By complexity, I mean the difficulty needed to decipher the rhythm’s pattern. Think of the brain as a computer whose central job, when dealing with sensory stimulus, is to decipher and categorize the stimulation.

“Emily takes in sensory stimulus at a very high level. It’s as if her volume control is turned way up. Everything comes at her with an intensity that is higher than for you or me. And she can’t turn down the volume. A light touch may feel like a hard squeeze, or a normal voice level may sound like a shout. Our goal with the REI tracks is to teach her sensory system to turn the volume down and to learn to distinguish important from unimportant sensory input.

“With each track, we want to increase the level of stimulation we can give her so that she becomes used to it. Over time, she’ll develop the skills to be able to moderate the stimulation she receives.”

Before I made her first Program track, Emily, who was four at the time, wouldn’t wear clothes, preferring to only wear undies. Sometimes she would wear shorts or a skirt but she was never okay with a shirt. And don’t even think about a coat. She also slept poorly, often waking at night or early in the morning, unable to get back to sleep. Emily was also anxious, and Laurel needed to be with her at all times lest she have a melt down.

Laurel was one of my favorite parents. She was engaged and inquisitive. And the two years I spent working with her extremely sensitive daughter was one of the most satisfying—and sometimes perplexing—experiences of my career.

Emily mirrored many challenges exhibited by a six-year-old boy I worked with a few years before. Gerald had both tactile and auditory sensitivities. He wouldn’t wear shoes or socks and would cover his ears, or sometimes cry or scream, when someone turned on music, even if the volume was low.

He also tended to isolate himself from his family, preferring to be in his room alone, playing with toys by himself. If a sibling or cousin came in his room, he’d have a meltdown.

For Gerald, the Program was pretty straightforward. He responded within the first two weeks in all areas.

“Gerald is doing great with the Program,” said Jenna, his REI provider. Jenna, an occupational therapist in south Texas, was our first active provider and this was one of her first clients. We were both excited by Gerald’s progress, especially by his quick response to REI.

“He’s been wearing socks and shoes everyday, since the end of the first week. Yesterday he joined his extended family outside and played with his brothers and cousins. He now lets his mom turn music on in the car and he has also been rocking out to his own pop music in the house.”

“That’s pretty quick progress. Is he using CD #2 yet?”

“He just started the other day. So far the transition is going well.” The transition from CD #1 to CD #2, at this time in the history of the REI Custom Program, was sometimes difficult because of the jump in stimulation.

The first CD (and first track with the current Program) generally focuses on reducing anxiety and sets the foundation for improving sleep issues, if there are any. The subsequent tracks progressively build stimulation and broaden their focus to include other areas of concern.

When sensory sensitivities reduce during the first track, it usually means that they are related to anxiety. This was my assumption with Gerald.

I had no such assumption with Emily when she started the Program. This is because, even though she had a similar symptom makeup, she also had sleep issues and a more heightened response to overstimulating environments.

“We’ll start with trying to help Emily’s sleep,” I said to Laurel when we started the Program. “If she can fall asleep more easily and not wake up, we may also see some improvement in her sensitivities. Sometimes being tired, especially chronically, can increase the presence of these symptoms. Her overreaction to things in general suggests that this may be the case.”

“So, do I play the track at bedtime, then? Can I play it all night long to help her stay asleep or turn it on again if she wakes up?” asked Laurel.

“Yes, turn it on at bedtime. Just play it once through. If she wakes up, it’s okay to turn it on again, but only once. With any luck, she’ll be able to stay asleep after a couple of weeks of this pattern.”

Many of our clients wake up at night. In fact, falling asleep is often not a problem. It’s the night waking. And this is probably one of the most difficult things for a parent to deal with. Having your night interrupted, night after night, becomes wearing and leads to a host of problems.

The kids who wake up at night often wake up ready to go for the day. Getting them back to sleep can be exhausting. So, the first and most important thing for us to focus on is to help the child sleep so the parents can sleep, too.

“Emily slept all night the fifth night,” Laurel told me at her two week check in. “She slept through the night for the next week and started waking up again the last couple of nights. Do you think we need to change tracks?”

“It sounds like it.” I made a new track and waited to hear from Laurel again in another two weeks.

“Emily slept through the night again when we started the new track, but she started waking up again the last couple of days.”

And so a pattern started to emerge for Emily. Sleep was a barometer to how a given track was working for her. Every time I made a new track, Emily would sleep well for a while and then she’d start waking up again.

“How are her anxiety and sensory issues?” I asked after the third track, hoping that we’d now start seeing some changes there.

“Oh, I forgot to mention this because I’ve been so focused on her sleep, but she’s now letting me put on a shirt,” Laurel added, sounding like it’s not a big deal.

“Wow, that’s great! When you started, she’d melt down if you tried that,” I added, trying to help her see what a big change this was. When we first talked, Laurel was much more concerned with Emily’s tactile sensitivities than she was by her sleep, but our focus on the sleep issue seemed to make her not as aware of Emily’s tactile improvements.

“Yeah, I guess it is a big change. And come to think of it, she hasn’t been melting down as much,” she said as we talked about where Emily was before the Program started.

This isn’t uncommon. Many times people are so focused on playing the track and dealing with whatever is up that it’s hard for them to see the big picture, unless it’s pointed out to them.

This is one of the most helpful things about our REI providers. Since they can’t make the CDs or even mix-and-match pre-recorded CDs as is common in other auditory programs, many providers feel like they don’t have an important role in REI. The key to their role is their relationship with their clients: It is valuable not only to help me see what the real issues are, but also to help the client gain perspective on how much progress they’ve made.

Laurel didn’t always need to be reminded where Emily started. She became keenly aware. In fact, she was one of the most astute observers of her daughter’s progress with the REI Program.

“Emily has been weepy the last few days in this track,” Laurel told me a few more weeks into her Program. “She did fine for the first week then she started crying for no reason. It’s not like a melt down. She’s not reacting to anything going on around her. She’ll just stop and cry. Could it be the track?”

“I don’t know. It could be, I suppose. How is she sleeping? How are her sensitivities?”

“She’s sleeping okay. She has been a little fussy about clothes. She’ll only wear one particular shirt and she doesn’t want to wear shoes anymore. Do you think we should try a new track?”

“That’s what I’m thinking. I’d guess that this track is probably too stimulating for her.”

I made a new track. Laurel called a week later.

“She’s not weepy anymore and she wearing shoes again. What did you do with the new track?”

“I went back to rhythms we used in Track #2 and rearranged them. I looked at your current track (#3) and noticed that it had changed databases and drums. The Udu drum is much more stimulating than the Gonga, and I’m guessing that had an impact on her.”

“I noticed it sounded like a different drum. Why would that matter?”

“The Gonga drum has a pretty soft, rounded tone. The Udu is really sharp. As well, on the Gonga I tend to use rhythms that are less complex and carry a longer structural flow than those played on the Udu. The Udu tracks tend to be much more stimulating than the Gonga tracks because the drum’s sound is more pointed and the rhythms more complex. Someone as sensitive as Emily may find the Udu uncomfortable to listen to.”

An REI Custom Program will draw from eight databases and switch back and forth between the Gonga and Udu. Even though the Udu drum rhythms tend to be more stimulating, the stimulation is presented on a scale. So a particular database of Gonga rhythms may be more stimulating than another database of Udu rhythms. In fact, each database used for the Custom Programs are progressively more stimulating;, so even though database two is an Udu, the rhythms are less stimulating than the rhythms played on the Gonga in database three.

We discovered that Emily was never able to handle the Udu tracks. I had to alter her Program so that we never drew from the Udu databases. She could handle fairly high intensity Gonga rhythms, but not lesser stimulating Udu drums. Fortunately, I was able to accommodate her.

Over the course of almost two years, Emily made significant progress in her anxieties and sensory issues. Then Laurel offered me another opportunity.

“Are you ready to work with my other daughter?” she asked. “Lila is the polar opposite of Emily. She is a sensory sponge. She could spend all day in the swing.”

“Okay, let’s give it try.”

Like Emily, Lila was four-years-old when I started working with her. Unlike Emily, who withdrew from sensory stimulus, Lila was a classic sensory seeker. She was high energy, high activity.

Her response to her Program was also harder to track than Emily’s. For instance, Emily’s sleep would change when she was ready for a new track. She also made steady progress, as long as we changed tracks on her schedule.

Lila, on the other hand, could stick with the same track forever without showing any negative effects. With Lila, we needed to be more vigilant in changing her tracks on time in order to move her forward. She soaked up all the stimulation her Program would offer.

In some ways, a client like Lila is easy because I never have to contend with, or even worry about, overstimulation. Overstimulation generally causes sleeplessness, anxiety and agitation. Once we see overstimulation in a client, we tread pretty carefully from that point forward to ensure that she doesn’t become overstimulated again.

Someone like Lila, though, doesn’t react as strongly. Because she can handle so much stimulation, it takes more intense rhythms and more frequent changes to the tracks to ensure that she makes progress. If I’m not seeing tangible progress by Track #3, then I step up the stimulation further. If progress doesn’t happen even after adding more stimulating REI tracks, I’ll sometimes also ask that the REI tracks be played more than once a day.

Lila didn’t need these contingencies. Her sensory-seeking became less pronounced during her second track, about three weeks into her Program. She was sleeping better and was less anxious overall. Other than that, Lila was a hard to read. She didn’t react strongly to a track like Emily did. She showed a slow, steady pace. Laurel was used to reacting to Emily’s response to a track and felt a little lost when it came to knowing how Lila was responding.

“Lila is different than Emily in many ways, but the curious thing about the REI is that she just goes with the flow.”

“Sensory seekers tend to be more consistent than sensory defensive people,” I described. “I think that someone who is seeking sensory input tends to run at a pace that keeps them stimulated. They may not react to sensory input as much because they are still seeking more.

“A sensory defensive person, on the other hand, has a threshold that may change depending on how they feel. Different types of stimulus have different effects on them. So, unless they experience the same type and level of stimulation, you’re going to see some variability in their response to stimulus and, in turn, in their behavior.”

“That makes sense. I really see that with Emily. There are days when she can handle going to the grocery store, but there are other days when she melts down. Same thing with school. That’s the most difficult thing about Emily’s sensory issues: I can’t predict how she is going to respond to something. Just when I think she’ll be okay with going somewhere, she’ll have a meltdown.

“Lila, on the other hand, is always busy. This consistency, although it’s hard, is easier to handle because I can plan for how she’ll react to something.”

Though I see quite a few people who are sensory-seeking like Lila, more clients are on the sensory defensive side, like Emily. Either way, because I can fine-tune the stimulation for each person, I can accommodate their sensory needs and hopefully help them learn to more efficiently process sensory input.

How I Use REI Drumming for Sensory Processing

In this video Jeff shows how he approaches the three types of sensory processing issues – hyper-sensitivity, hypo-sensitivity, and sensory discrimination.

He plays examples of various drumming rhythms to influence these sensory responses and describes how hyper and hypo sensitivity fits into an REI Custom Program.

A Look at Rhythmic Entrainment Intervention by Its Creator

This article, written by REI Creator Jeff Strong, was published in: Insights into Sensory Issues for Professionals: Answers to Sensory Challenges, edited by Kathleen Morris. MS CCC/SLP. 2010.(Originally published in SI Focus Magazine, Fall 2008)

Auditory rhythm has a long history of use for affecting neurological function, with the earliest uses being documented tens of thousands of years ago. These original techniques are some of the most pervasive therapeutic practices known to man, existing on every continent even among people who had no contact with one another (Harner, 1990). As an ethnomusicologist I was fascinated by the commonality in the techniques within such disparate cultures. I spent over a decade trying to understand how the same basic therapeutic approaches developed when so many other aspects of these societies were vastly different.

The answer, it appeared, was that the physiological mechanisms at work are so powerful that experimentation by each culture resulted in a common finding: You can affect consciousness, cognition, and behavior by employing only two specific rhythmic techniques. One consists of a repetitive pulse while the other employs complex rhythmic structures.

Discovering such commonality among traditional therapeutic rhythm practices prompted another, perhaps more important, question: Can these therapeutic effects sustain themselves outside of the cultural context in which they developed? I believed so, but many of my colleagues did not, believing instead that the rhythm was secondary to the rituals they were imbedded in (and is often attributed to the placebo effect). This led to an odyssey that began in 1992 and has continued to this day, culminating in the development of Rhythmic Entrainment Intervention™ (REI).

REI is a music-medicine therapy (Spintge & Droh, 1992) that stimulates and synchronizes the listener’s brain. REI is available as some generalized CDs This is a custom-made, program that optimizes neurological function.

Auditory Rhythm to Stimulate the Brain

REI is unique in several ways. First, REI employs auditory rhythm to directly stimulate the listener’s brain. Other auditory programs use modulated frequency (Tomatis, 1992), binaural beats (Oster, 1973), or simply classical-based music (Rauscher, Shaw, and Key, 1993).

Auditory Driving

As I developed REI, my first step was to identify the core mechanisms of the traditional techniques. It turns out that these mechanisms are simple, powerful, and easily understood. First, human consciousness can be directly affected by an auditory stimulus. This is called “auditory driving” (Goldman, 1992). Auditory driving states that a listener’s brain wave activity will synchronize with the pulsation of an auditory rhythm (provided certain conditions are met).

Traditional practitioners would employ a four-beat-per-second rhythm, which would in turn facilitate a corresponding four-beat-per-second pulsation in the listener’s brain, resulting in bilateral neurological synchronization and a shift in consciousness to a theta state (this is a meditative state)(Maxfield, 1994). With REI we double the tempo to synchronize a listener’s brain into a relaxed neurological state called alpha. This is the state of consciousness where sensory processing is optimized.

Complex Rhythms

The second core mechanism involved in traditional therapeutic rhythm techniques consists of using complex rhythms to activate the brain (Scartelli, 1987; Shatin, Koner, Douglas-Longmore, 1961; Parsons, 1996). Here complex auditory rhythms stimulate the Reticular Activating System (RAS), a part of the brain that controls sensory input (Scartelli, 1992). Applying rhythm - especially complex rhythm – to activate the brain is one level of the stimulation provided by REI. As we conducted research we discovered another dimension to the rhythms: One that appears to be more important than just complexity. It seems that each rhythm produces a different response.

Once the core mechanisms were discovered the next step was to determine the best way to deliver the correct stimulus to aid in the areas in which I was interested. Traditional practitioners performed the rhythms live for each person and adjusted their rhythms based upon the responses they saw in their patient.

Daily Listening for Long-Term Change

This is where I started -- the first 1,000 people that REI was used for experienced this one-on-one, live stimulus. They also listened to a recording of one of their live sessions daily in their home. Daily listening was a departure from the traditions, but I felt that people needed the stimulation repeated consistently for a length of time in order for any long-term change to be expected.

One of the first children that I worked with in this manner was a seven-year-old girl on the autism spectrum. In this case, the girl, let’s call her Stephanie, was referred to me because of extreme anxiety. This anxiety impacted every aspect of her life: She wasn’t able to sleep in her own room and needed to be in constant contact with her mother; transitions and even minor changes in her environment were a point of crisis for her throughout the day.

She also had significant language and social delays. Her language consisted largely of repeating rote words and phrases. Although she had a large vocabulary, she was unable to communicate beyond her basic needs and desires. Socially, she lacked eye contact and wasn’t able to interact appropriately with her peers.

She calmed down within minutes during the first live session, and after the second session she remained calm and was able to sleep in her own room from that night on. Stephanie listened to a recording of her third live session everyday for eight weeks. At seven weeks she spontaneously described events in proper sequence for the first time. She was also developing social connections and had begun making friends.

She was mainstreamed at school (she was in a classroom with non-autistic children and had a one-on-one aide) and at 10 weeks the school psychologist evaluated Stephanie in her classroom and noted that she was “indistinguishable from the “normal” children in the class.” She continued listening to her recording for several more months and eventually no longer required her one-on-one aide.

Universal Calming Effects

This, and many other cases studies, led to a formal study conducted in a public school setting (Strong, 12). This study consisted of 16 children from age 6 to 12 who were on the autism spectrum. The results of this study showed almost universal calming effects (only one child was not calm most of the time, and this child ended up not being on the autism spectrum).

Long-term change was significant for anyone who heard the recording at least four times per week. This study caught the attention of several prominent autism professionals and led to a paper of this study being presented at several professional research conferences (including one organized by The Center for the Study of Autism led by Dr. Stephen Edelson, who went on to design all of our double-blind, placebo-controlled studies).

At this point my interest in exploring the therapeutic application of auditory rhythmic stimulation techniques deepened. I formed the REI Institute with Beth Kaplan with no intention of creating a “therapy” that would be available outside of a research environment. Our goal was simply to try to understand how auditory rhythmic could be used to enhance neurological function.

Over the next 10 years the REI Institute conducted numerous studies and presented dozens of scientific papers on what we were learning. Two of the key discoveries of this period were that synchronization was universal when certain techniques were applied and that each rhythm used elicited a definite, observable response over time.

Specific Rhythms’ Observable Effects

In other words, we found that we could introduce specific rhythms to have a pre-determined effect on each listener. To date, we have documented over 600 rhythms that seem to correspond to symptoms and combinations of symptoms. As a result we found it was critical to use just the right rhythms for each person in order to have the greatest positive benefits for that person.

During the 1990s, the REI Institute conducted a series of double-blind, placebo-controlled studies to try to understand the best approaches to take in balancing auditory stimulation and synchronization. What we learned in a nutshell was that the custom-made CDs are more effective than CDs created for a broad user base.

Custom-made, Revisable CDs

This leads to the second unique aspect of REI: The REI Custom Program™ is custom-created for each person based on his unique characteristics. By custom-making each CD we can ensure that the correct level of stimulation is used for that person. In the event that we aren’t seeing the results we’ve come to expect, we also revise the CDs until we see the results we are looking for. The practice of revising the custom-made CDs is the third unique aspect of REI.

Because the REI Custom Program™ is created for each person, we are able to focus the CDs on the three or four main issues someone faces. As a result, everyone responds differently to his CDs, but we see the most significant benefits in some general categories. These include anxiety, sleep, self-stimulatory behaviors, language skills, sensory sensitivities and defensiveness, socialization, attention and focus, and aggressive or oppositional behaviors.

Another example of the results with the REI Custom Program™ (and one most relevant to this article) can be seen with a 10-year-old boy with severe sensory issues. Gerald, as I’ll refer to him, saw significant improvement within just a few days. Before he began the REI Custom Program™ he refused to wear shoes or socks, covered his ears whenever music was played, couldn’t tolerate headphones, and socially isolated himself from others, often retreating to a dark, quiet room.

Within the first week of listening to his CDs, Gerald was more tolerant of everyday sounds. He also spontaneously joined his extended family outside and began interacting with them. By the second week he was interacting with his siblings and cousins much more frequently, and by week four, according to his REI Provider, “… He is wearing socks and tennis shoes every day. He now not only allows mom to listen to music in the car, he often goes to his room and 'rocks out' to his own pop music. He has been more interactive and engaged in activities as well as initiating appropriate play with other children.”(Strong, 1996) He was also able to tolerate headphones for the first time.

Open-Air Environment

This leads to the fourth thing that distinguishes REI from other auditory programs: REI is designed to be used in an open-air environment. That is, we don’t use headphones for the implementation of the therapy. The CDs simply need to play quietly in the background once a day (with the exception of the third week where the CDs are used twice a day). Having the stimulus in the background while the rest of the sensory input of life goes on forces the brain’s RAS to work hard to decipher the pattern in the stimulus while also ensuring that the listener doesn’t become over-stimulated by the rhythms.

In 2004 we began offering REI Custom Program™ through trained providers -– we now have hundreds across the U.S. This represented a monumental shift after 22 years of research -- research that simply started from my desire to understand why traditional therapeutic rhythm practices were so prevalent around the world.

In spite of our growth and the expansion of REI beyond just research, I am still personally involved in the creation of all the REI Custom Program™ CDs that leave our office and am still impassioned by learning more about how auditory rhythmic stimulation can impact individuals with neurological issues.

References
Goldman, J. (1992). Sonic entrainment. In R. Spintge & R. Droh (Eds.), MusicMedicine (pp. 194-208). St. Louis, MO: MMB Music, Inc.
Harner, M. (1990). The Way of the Shaman (3rd ed.). New York: Harper San Francisco.
Maxfield, M. (1994). The journey of the drum. ReVision, 16(2), 157-163.
Oster, G. (year, month). Auditory beats in the brain. Scientific American, 229, 94-102.
Parsons, L. M. (1996, October). What components of music enhance spatial abilities? Paper presented at the VI International MusicMedicine Symposium. San Antonio, TX.
Rauscher, Shaw, & Key (1993, October 14). Music and spatial task performance. Nature, volume, pages.
Scartelli, J. (1987, November). Subcortical mechanisms in rhythmic processing. Paper presented at the meeting of the National Association for Music Therapy. San Francisco, CA.
Scartelli, J. (1992). Music therapy and psychoneuroimmunology. In Spingte & Droh, (pp. 137-141).
Shatin, L., Kotter, W. L., & Douglas-Longmore, G. (September 1961). Music therapy for schizophrenics. Journal of Rehabilitation, 27, 30-31.
Spintge, R., & Droh, R. (1992). The International Society of Music in Medicine (ISMM) and the definition of MusicMedicine and music therapy. In Spintge & Droh, (pp. 3-5).
Strong, J. (1996, October). Rhythmic Entrainment Intervention (REI) as applied to childhood autism. Paper presented at the VI International MusicMedicine Symposium.
Tomatis, A. (1992). The conscious ear: My life of transformation through listening. Barrytown, NY: Station Hill Press.

The REI Custom Program

The REI Custom Program is a home-based auditory brain stimulation program that uses musical rhythm to stimulate and re-pattern neurological function. A unique blend of modern advances in brain research and ancient rhythmic techniques, REI facilitates long-term improvement in sensory processing.

Custom created for you based on your unique 10-symptom profile: this is the key to our program. Whether you experience anxiety, inattention, sensory sensitivities, cognitive issues, insomnia, mood issues, or issues with spatial orientation, we deliver the proper stimulus to achieve your goal of proper sensory integration and a more functional life.

Once you begin, the REI Custom Program's interactive online platform and tracking ensures that you are always getting the stimulation that you need based on your real-world performance. Each new track of your program is dynamically engineered in response to your weekly progress.

The REI Custom Program is a Complete Solution

Our core program is a comprehensive home-based therapy consisting of:

• 12 Custom-created REI Audio Tracks. These twelve custom REI audio tracks employ progressive stimulation techniques made just for you and your responses to the music. Just as no two people are the same, you require unique stimulus to achieve the best results.

• Unlimited client support to make sure that you are indeed getting the best stimulation for your needs. We work closely with you to make certain you see significant improvements.

• 7 Brain Shift Radio audio downloads that can be used anytime you want additional benefits. These tracks include: Noisy Room Sleep, Revving-up Focus, Energy Boost, PowerNap Mix, Memory Boost, Big Round Calm, and Mood Lifter.

• Jeff Strong's Different Drummer book download to give you an understanding of how REI developed and how to best implement your program.

The REI Custom Program is a Easy to Use

The REI Custom Program is home-based and requires no special equipment.

Play Your REI Custom Calm track once a day.

You can stream or download from your phone, tablet or computer. Tracks average between 22 and 26 minutes.

Play the track quietly in the background.

There is no need to actively listen to the music or to use headphones.

Check in with us at the recommended intervals.

You will receive an email every seven days asking you to complete your track adjustment feedback.

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