WHAT IS AUDITORY PROCESSING?
Auditory processing is the brain’s ability to interpret and make sense of the sounds it hears. It thus attaches meaning to the sound. If a child suffers with auditory processing difficulties, they may process information differently as their ears and brain may not process the information in a coordinated manner . These children have no issues hearing although it may appear that they are struggling to hear or listen.
WHY IS AUDITORY PROCESSING IMPORTANT?
Auditory processing is important for speech and language. It is also important for learning to read e.g. learning the letters of the alphabet and ‘sounding out’ words. Learning to read involves many auditory processing skills such as listening, discrimination, memory, analysis and synthesis.
AREAS OF AUDITORY PROCESSING
- Auditory discrimination – is the ability to hear if sounds or words are the same (pan/pan) or different (share/chair)
- Auditory memory – is the ability to store and remember what is heard i.e. Remembering the instruction given, remembering spelling words or sentences for dictation
- Auditory figure-ground – being able to listen and pay attention to a particular sound even if there’s noise in the background. Noisy, low-structured classrooms can be very frustrating.
- Auditory attention: the ability to stay focused and listen long enough to complete a task or requirement, such as listening to a teacher in class.
- Auditory analysis: is the ability to break a word up into its sounds
- Auditory synthesis – is the ability to put sounds together e.g. C-A-T makes cat
SIGNS OF AN AUDITORY PROCESSING DIFFICULTY
- Difficulty learning and remembering nursery rhymes or song lyrics e.g. recalling words of a song or mispronouncing these words.
- Has trouble following verbal directions
- Struggles to recall details of what was heard
- Appears to be hearing but not listening
- Often mistakes two similar-sounding words for e.g. ‘ship’ and ‘chip’
- Has difficulty understanding speech in noisy environments
- Cannot remember the phonic sounds of letters or sound combinations like ‘ee’
- Has trouble learning to read and spell
- Finds it hard to follow conversations
- Finds it hard to express oneself clearly, may say “mama want duice” for juice or “goed” instead of “goes”
- Frequently asks people to repeat what they’ve said
TIPS ON HOW TO DEVELOP AND IMPROVE YOUR CHILDS AUDITORY PERCEPTION
Auditory skills are developed from the time the baby is born through play. As you stimulate your baby with different sounds such as speaking, singing, toys and reading, your child learns to distinguish between sounds and attaches meaning to the sounds.
Preschool years are a time for major learning and it is a crucial time to develop auditory processing skills. If these skills are well developed, it will be easier for your child to learn to read and areas of speech and language will be appropriately stimulated.
The best way to stimulate your child’s auditory processing is through playing games.
- Listening for sounds. Have the children close their eyes and listen to environmental sounds around them. Sounds like cars, airplanes, animals, outside sounds or sounds in the next room. These can be attended to and identified.
- Recorded sounds. Sounds can be placed on tape or recorded and the child can be asked to identify them. Planes, trains, cars, children playing, and animals are some of the sounds that may be used.
- Shaking sounds. Place small hard items such as stones, beans, chalk, salt, sand, or rice into small containers or jars with covers. Have the child identify the contents through shaking and listening.
- Attending for sound patterns. Have the child close his eyes or sit facing away from you. Clap hands, play a drum, bounce a ball, etc. Have the child tell how many counts there were or ask him to repeat the patterns made. Rhythmic patterns can be made for the child to repeat.
- Auditory memory – First, give your child one instruction. “Go into the kitchen.” Next, give your child two instructions. “Go into the kitchen and grab a spoon.” Then give your child three instructions, “go into the kitchen, grab a spoon and hide under the table.” Build up the instructions over time. Then switch so that your child gets to give you instructions to follow as well (hopefully you manage this!).
- Play ‘I went to the market and I bought…’ – This is a family game and can be played around the dinner table. Start with, “I went to the market and I bought an apple.” The second person says, “I went to the market and I bought an apple and a banana.” The third person says, “I went to the market and I bought an apple, a banana and a bag of chips”, and so on.
- Sing nursery rhymes and songs. Leave a word or sentence out and see if the child remembers it.
- Listen for the word – while reading a story , choose a word and ask the child to clap every time he hears the word e.g. bear ( in the three bears story )
- I spy with my little eye – choose something in the room or while you driving e.g. I spy something that starts with ‘b’. You can give clues like ‘it is round’ or ‘you can bounce it’.
- Find pictures in a magazine that begin with a particular sound and stick them on a loose page. The page can be used as a poster, gift card or collage.
- When reading break a word up and say for e.g. ‘can you find a m-a-n?’
- Chain of rhyming words – choose simple words like cat and each one takes turns adding a rhyming word e.g. cat, hat, mat and so on.
- Read a story to your child. Afterwards ask your child questions about the sequence of events. What happened first, who went to the game, etc. Continue to ask questions until the events in the story have been reviewed. You can also ask your child to predict likely events in the story.
SIMPLE STRATEGIES TO USE AT HOME IF YOUR CHILD IS STRUGGLING WITH AUDITORY PROCESSING:
- Reduce background noise whenever possible.
- Have your child look at you when you speak. This helps give your child visual clues to “fill in the gaps” of missing speech or information.
- Use a strategy like “chunking”, which means giving your child simple verbal directions with less words, a key word to remember, and fewer steps.
- Speak at a slightly slower rate with a clear voice.
- Ask your child to repeat the directions back to you to ensure they understand.
Most importantly, encourage little ones to partake and explore, to never shy away from questioning and create an environment for them to access and practice their newfound skills. As parents, place effort into acknowledging efforts, small and big. Exercise patience where possible and remember that with frustration comes perseverance, with perseverance comes resilience.
If you are concerned about your little one’s auditory processing, or any other area of their development, consult a therapist for professional intervention. Not sure? Book a virtual consultation online and we will guide you.