Simply stated, auditory processing is the how well our brain perceives and makes sense of incoming information. Think about this common school scenario when a classroom teacher says to her students:
“Ok class, before we open up our math books to page 55, get out your homework from last night and put it on the left hand corner of your desk for me to collect and review. While I am collecting your homework you can work with problems 1-10 on page 55.“ Some students may take out their math book and then not have a clue as to what to do next. Some students may take out their homework but not their math book. Some students may do nothing at all. Why does this happen? Is it because the student was distracted? Do they have difficulty following multi-part directions? Were they socializing and missed the instruction entirely? Does the student have a hearing loss? Could this be an auditory processing issue? All of these explanations are possibilities and can occur by themselves or in conjunction with each other.
Some students hear the words or sounds but have a problem processing them or making sense of them especially when the language is lengthy or complex, when it is spoken rapidly, when there is a lot background noise occurring in conjunction with the words or when there is a lot of visual stimulation going on. The actual cause of an auditory processing disorder is often unknown.
Both an audiologist and a speech/language pathologist determine the diagnosis of an auditory processing or a central auditory processing disorder. Often the terms central auditory processing disorder and auditory processing disorder are used interchangeably. The audiologist will rule in or out a hearing disorder while the speech/language pathologist will look at both the receptive and expressive language that a student understands and produces. Processing disorders affect approximately 5% of students. Processing disorders affect learning particularly in the areas of reading and spelling. Early intervention and treatment are the most beneficial ways to help your child learn strategies to minimize their processing issues.
Once a processing disorder has been diagnosed most children will work with their school speech pathologist on their specific areas of weakness within the processing profile. They could have a specific weakness with memory, comprehension or phonemic awareness. Below are a few classroom accommodations that will be very important to be part of your child’s overall intervention process:
- Use simple, brief directions.
- Give directions in a logical, time ordered sequence. Use words such as first, next and finally in order to make the sequence clear.
- Repeat as well as rephrase directions.
- Use visual aids and write instructions to supplement spoken information. Teach the student with a multimodal approach whenever possible.
- Emphasize key words when speaking or writing especially when presenting new information. Pre instruction with emphasis on the main ideas to be presented may also be helpful.
- Check comprehension by asking the student questions or asking for a brief summary after key ideas have presented.
- Encourage the student to ask questions for further clarification.
- Provide advantageous seating, away from distractions and close to the teacher. This will enable the student to make better use of auditory and visual cues.
- Make instructional transitions clear.
- Continual repetition and review of previously learned material may be beneficial.
- Recognize periods of real fatigue and give breaks as necessary.
- Avoid asking the student to listen and write at the same time. Tape recording and teacher-generated notes may be beneficial.
- Provide the student with as many graphic organizers as possible.
- Give the student additional processing and formulation time as needed.
Submitted by: Randi Weinberg