Auditory Processing Disorders
Auditory Processing isn't just crucial component of learning, but also of life. We rely on auditory processing skills to communicate with others, a basic human need. This is why people with auditory processing disorders are often prone to temper problems and social isolation.
Have you ever given a child or student multi-step oral directions like hanging up his/her coat, bringing in the newspaper, and letting the dog outside? Have you stood by perplexed when that same child gets distracted before the first task is even accomplished? Has the child veered off course and chased a butterfly, grabbed a stack of Legos and started building, or just stood in a room looking lost?
Did you also notice that some of the symptoms just mentioned mirror those of ADD/ADHD? All too often, students with auditory processing disorders are misdiagnosed with ADD/ADHD and are placed on harsh medications. After all, there is no blood test or other definitive measure for diagnosing ADD/ADHD.
Do you think your child is tuning you out or not paying attention? Do you become frustrated and sometimes angry because you know how smart your child or student is? This is a common problem with auditory processing disorders, but don't worry! These crucial auditory processing skills can be strengthened. Gaps can be filled in and students can be taught to "listen".
We take in sound with our ears, but process auditory information in our brains. Hearing is a process that involves more than simply acknowledging and registering sounds.
Hearing involves the ability to:
attend to various sounds and remember them
be aware of the direction from which the sound originates
repeat the sound in order to recall those sounds
be aware of rhythmic patterns
isolate a sound
from a variety of different sounds
distinguish a sound from background noises
draw meaning from verbal stimuli
fuse the sounds coming into two ears into one unified
identify a sound in the initial, middle, and ending position of a word
Often, young children, especially toddlers, will get ear infections. Because of the pain in their ears and the inability to hear sound correctly due to the build up of mucous or other infectious material, these children learn to process auditory information incorrectly. This can lead to an auditory processing disorder.
Symptoms of Auditory Processing Disorders and How they Affect Learning Success:
not following verbal directions well
a tendency to rush through assignments
day dreaming or not paying attention in class
difficulty with interpreting and understanding verbal information and cues
must look at your face to understand verbal directions or instruction
incessant talking or bothering other students in class
doesn’t do well in large groups
has melt downs in stores or other areas where there is a lot of background noise
has an existing diagnosis of ADD/ADHD, or the teacher or another professional has suggested that the child may suffer from this disorder
behavior issues that seem unexplainable
If a student suffers from auditory processing problems, a day at school, with so much auditory stimuli, may seem like a lifetime. This student may be misdiagnosed, mistreated, misunderstood, and because intelligence isn’t a factor, pushed to do better than he is able to.
Focusing abilities rely on auditory stimuli. As a matter of fact, auditory stimuli place the most significant demands on attention and focusing, since they are temporally located. Students who are diagnosed with ADD/ADHD often show huge improvement in focusing and concentration once auditory training skills are received and strengthened.
Reading abilities also improve once the student is able to correctly process the auditory stimuli necessary for hearing sounds and sound segments, some of the necessary components for reading, fluency, and comprehension success.
If you suspect your child or student has an auditory processing disorder, don't despair. There's so much that can be done to help these intelligent kids. Following is a list of auditory processing skills that we address at Harp:
Filtering Out Distractions:
Some children are lacking an auditory “filter” which enables them to tune out irrelevant and inconsequential background noises. These kids might hear another student’s pencil as it moves across a page, or they might hear the whirring of a computer in the background. The buzzing of fluorescent lights can set them into a tailspin, or even the gentle whooshing of ceiling fans or the steady sound of traffic can cause a discomfort or outright fit.
Autistic children will often hold their hands to their ears, because they lack this filter, and they don’t know what else to do, because trying to filter this background noise is actually physically painful for them. If a siren blares, another student knocks a desk to the floor, or a fire alarm is triggered, these students can become agitated or just space out in an effort to function. (These are also symptoms of ADD/ADHD)
The Auditory Channel is crucial to learning, especially in the early stages of childhood development. If something goes wrong with processing information in an auditory capacity at this stage, then there will be a gap in this part of the learning foundation until proper intervention is received. Ear infections, high fevers, bumps on the head, allergies, and a host of other problems can occur while the brain is still forming neural pathways, and because of this, the information that is received in an auditory fashion is taken in and interpreted incorrectly.
These kids might not hear the ending sounds of words, or may not understand the vowel sounds. They might be the ones who don’t have that filter we talked about. They mispronounce words and then argue that you are pronouncing the words wrong. They have a difficult time with social cues. Tempers flare, because they honestly think that the rest of the world “hears” incorrectly. Since they can remember nothing else, then this only makes sense.
Don't despair. If this sounds like your child, then you just haven't found the right solution yet. At Harp, we rewire the brain so auditory information can be correctly processed. We teach kids how to filter out extraneous noises so they can focus on learning...so they can get off potent medications.
This is where students hear and process auditory information. A disorder often happens where the student hears sounds but cannot process these sounds correctly into words and language. These students may be unable to tune out background noise or hear only beginnings or endings of sounds, words, or sentences. They must strain simply to communicate and are at a severe disadvantage in a lecture format classroom. These students are usually extremely frustrated and often have temper problems or outbursts because of this.
This disorder is often referred to as a Central Auditory Processing Disorders. (CAPD)
In addition, research indicates that there is an auditory component to dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia, so the amount of people affected by auditory processing disorders is huge!
Auditory processing skills are some of the most difficult to put into place. Through Lisa's research and practical application, she's discovered that auditory processing skills fall into place easier after key visual and visual motor integration skills are mastered. That's why at Harp, we put an emphasis on auditory processing skills at the end of the program.
The Blue Level at Harp is rich with auditory processing skills. It is also the most difficult level to pass. This is because, like with visual processing, there are numerous sub-skills that need to be put in place first, and like all learning, there is a hierarchy to the skills. You must have A to get to B, B to get to C, and C to get to D. All too often, students miss out on lower level auditory skills and are then expected to have higher level skills in place.
We take in sound with our ears, but we process auditory information in our brains. That is why so many students pass hearing tests, yet still struggle to process auditory information in a workable manner. That's why it's crucial that students receive brain integration exercises.
According to KidsHealth.org, an auditory processing disorder (APD), also known as a central auditory processing disorder (CAPD), is a hearing problem that affects about five percent of school-aged children. Students with this condition have a difficult time or cannot process what they hear in the same way other students do because their ears and brain don’t fully coordinate and communicate.
Of course, it is difficult to understand what a student with CAPD is undergoing, but sounds can be jumbled, distorted, partially gone, delayed, choppy, warbled, or any other assortment of disturbances between the ears and the brain. If you have ever been talking on a cell phone and the reception is bad, you might have an idea of what a student with CAPD is going through. And there is no stop to it, no sudden gaining of reception. The student has lived his/her entire life this way, and knows nothing else, except that it is difficult, if not painful, to make sense out of sounds.
Often, these kids will withdraw, because facing a painful, extremely noisy world can be too difficult. Once a student withdraws, it is much more difficult to draw him/her out, whereas a student or child with temper problems is letting you know that something is wrong in his/her world.
These kids usually are the ones with temper problems. Not just from the frustration and hard work it takes to communicate, but from the simple act of not having that connection that people crave, the face to face communication that is basic to all humans. Sometimes kids with CAPD will retreat, as it is too much work to try to make sense of all of the auditory stimulation in their world.
It is imperative that students have strong auditory processing skills in order to function in a classroom by hearing and understanding what the teacher is asking for or directing the student to do. These kids often get accused of not listening, not following directions, and will often be ing
Often, these students will have social problems, as they can’t relate to what their peers are saying. They are a step behind, learn to act goofy or do “bad” things to get the attention off of the fact that they don’t understand what to do, how to talk to a peer, how to follow basic rules of a game. They will often mispronounce words, like saying "ephalant" for elephant or "mazagine" for magazine. They might say "sink" for think or be unable to say a letter sound completely, like their "r" or "l" sound.
Because of this, they are often bullied, made fun of, or made to think that they are dumb. Sometimes they will become argumentative, because they heard something in a particular way, and they will “die on a hill” proving that point. That is the way they heard it, and they think everyone else is wrong because they are saying it differently.
If they are made to feel dumb, they will make up for it with boasting, lying (or what appears to be lying – in their minds these things happened), throwing tantrums, retreating, or just shutting down.
So, let’s get into those subsets of auditory skills that wreak so much havoc with students who suffer from CAPD.
This is the ability to recognize differences in phonemes (distinct units of sounds). This includes identifying words and sounds that are similar and those which are different. Students who struggle in this area may only hear beginnings, endings, or middle sounds of words or hear sounds and words incorrectly. This affects not only academic achievement, but human relationships as well. It is indeed difficult to read, spell, or write words if you cannot hear the sounds correctly or differentiate between different sounds.
Auditory memory is the ability to store and recall information which was given orally. An individual who suffers with this difficulty will not understand directions that are given, usually multi-step directions. It is as if the words flow right through their ears without sticking.
Oral information isn’t able to be recalled, and this makes studying for tests quite difficult, because these students can’t recall what the teacher said. Or, they are famous for remembering a different version of what the teacher said or modeled. In their minds it was one way, but when it
This is the ability to remember and reconstruct the order of items in a list or the order of sounds in a word or syllable. An example of a mistake made by a student who struggles in this area would be saying or writing "ephelant" for elephant.
This is the process of putting together phonemes to form words. For example, the individual phonemes “c”, “a”, and “t” are blended to form the word “cat”. Phonemic awareness and blending falls into this auditory skill. Dyslexic students struggle with auditory blending because they cannot visually see or perceive the letters or hear the differences between the sounds.
This is the ability to fill in parts of words that were omitted in an auditory manner. This usually occurs in an automatic fashion and aids in comprehension. Auditory closure is important for learning, because students need to close up or fill in the unusual or missing parts of unfamiliar, misheard, or “strange” word(s) to which we are listening.
Auditory Figure Ground:
This is the ability to identify the primary auditory signal from background and competing noise.
Auditory figure ground is the ability to identify the primary auditory signal from background and competing noises. This skill is crucial for students to succeed in a classroom environment where there are often background noises that they must tune out in order to concentrate on the teacher’s directions. Students must also be able to tune out other background noises such as airplanes or computers in order to function well in life.
Auditory analysis is the ability to recognize phonemes or morphemes that are embedded in words. This skill is needed to distinguish verb tense, for example, saying leaped instead of leaps and other markers that may be masked, lost, or imitated background noises.
Sequential Auditory Memory:
This is the ability to recall and remember auditory information in the order given. At Harp Learning Institute, we take it a step further and have students not only remember auditory stimuli and present it in the order given, but we have them also remember how it is given and then repeat it in a backward combination. This contributes to the student’s ability to use his working memory later on.
Sequential auditory memory is important for reading skills, as the student must be able to remember and use the sounds of words, words in sentences, and the meaning of sentences in paragraphs. It is also a crucial spelling and writing skill, as the student must be able to not only recall the letter of the spelling word, but the sound and order as well.
For math, this skill is important for a variety of reasons, starting with basic math facts memorization and moving on to recalling, using, and applying difficult formulas.
Too often, this skill is overlooked in programs that claim they are addressing a student’s auditory processing skills.
Okay, so this skill is so broad that I almost left it out, but it is one of the most important skills of all of the auditory skills we need for academic achievement. A student sitting in a classroom, or even in a preschool or kindergarten class, must follow directions all day long, as that is part of how the student survives and achieves academic success in a classroom. Even the home schooled student must be able to follow oral directions.
We give the student a visual sheet and have him perform certain activities on that sheet by giving oral directions. We start out easy, then continuously make these exercises more difficult.
By learning to follow directions, the student can transfer this to the classroom and then understand a verbal lesson that is given.
Did you know that mental math is actually an auditory skill? That is because the student must “hear” the problem in his brain first, before he can solve the problem. We make sure students can perform mental math by teaching it along with a physical activity. By jumping rope, hopping on a trampoline, bouncing a ball, performing cross crawls, or a host of other activities, the student is soon capable of performing mental math. This helps the student with dyscalculia as well as the student who struggles with math.
Once again, even though analogies are a common skill, often seen on tests, this skill is auditory in nature. The problem is that students are rarely taught how to reason out the comparisons that present themselves in analogies. We start with a visual, pictures of different objects and how they may relate or how they might be opposite in nature, or a different combination. Once the student can easily figure out analogies that coincide with a visual target, then we can move on to simple comparison analogies with words only. Just like before, when this is easily accomplished and tested by the student, then we can move on to traditional analogies.
Like everything in the Harp Learning System, we break down the bigger academic component, add as many multi-sensory components as possible, and then we can move on to traditional analogies.
Like everything in the Harp Learning System, we break down the bigger academic component, add as many multi-sensory components as possible, and then slowly increase the demand.
Tips for working with a student with auditory processing problems:
Get down to the child’s level when speaking to him.
Give the student your full attention.
Maintain eye contact.
Speak slowly and clearly.
Listen patiently without correcting.
Give her plenty of time to finish thoughts.
Don’t give him the words you think he is going to say because you are in a hurry or because of impatience.
Model good listening skills.
Break down oral directions into little chunks or pieces.
Try several different ways of giving directions. If one manner doesn’t work, then rephrase it
Provide a quiet homework spot where academics can be done without distractions from siblings, television, video games, etc.
Keep loud and obnoxious noises to a minimum until proper interventions are put into place
Allow the child to look at your lips while you speak. Many of these kids teach themselves to lip read without even knowing it.
Make sure the student is in a classroom with a small amount of students or consider home schooling.
Set up a routine so that the student knows what to expect; be sure to go over any schedule changes ahead of time.
Don’t tolerate rude or disrespectful behavior, even though you know that it is due to an auditory processing problem. (see behavior problems)
Set up a positive behavior system if possible.
Give praise when it is due, and be specific about it.
Provide as many visuals as possible.
If the student has social problems, enroll in a social skills group, or practice social skills training at home. There are many resources available for social skills.