Auditory processing involves what we do with what we hear. Auditory processing disorders are deficits in the processing of information we receive through audible signals, that are not attributed to impaired hearing sensitivity or intellectual impairment. Individuals who have processing disorders experience difficulties attaching meaning to sound groups that form words, sentences and stories.
The ability to process auditory information accurately is crucial for learning and communicating in daily living. The behavioral characteristics of processing disorders can be confused with other disorders, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Learning Disabilities (LD), which can make the identification and intervention planning difficult.
Components of Auditory Processing:
1. Retention and Organization – the ability to listen to something, remember it, and repeat it in the original order. Difficulties in this area limit a person’s ability to follow directions, to remember information, and to retell or describe events. People with deficient retention and organization skills often have trouble completing tasks at home, in school, or at work.
2. Auditory Discrimination – the ability to differentiate among auditory signals. Related to this are decoding and phonological awareness, the abilities to notice, think about, or manipulate the sounds in language automatically. Includes tasks such as blending, segmenting, and rhyming.
3. Sequencing – directly related to the ability to follow directions. Since most of us, especially students, spend a great deal of our day following directions in school or at work, disturbances in this are usually fairly obvious. Inattentiveness, incomplete paperwork, and learning difficulties may be directly related to poor sequencing skills.
4. Conceptualization – enables the listener to give meaning to what he hears. Effective conceptualization is crucial to abstract concepts such as time, direction, and space. Disturbances in this area can create the impression that a student is disorganized and unable to adapt to new situations. Such a student is apt to be considered inflexible, concrete, and confused.
5. Synthesis of Information – fundamental for pulling together all the language skills that are necessary to communicate effectively. These skills include the ability to learn to read, to anticipate spoken messages, to grasp the main idea of a conversation or story, and to fill in missing information in a conversation.
Behaviors Symptomatic or Associated with Processing Disorders
· Says “huh” or “what” frequently
· Is easily distracted
· Often misunderstands what is said
· Frequently requests information be repeated or clarified
· Misinterprets requests
· Has difficulty following or understanding discussions
· Has difficulty following oral directions or understanding new information
· Has difficulty listening in the presence of background noise
· Has poor receptive language skills
· Confuses words that sound alike
· Learns poorly through the auditory modality
· Gives inconsistent responses to auditory stimuli
· Has difficulty answering open-ended questions
· Uses vague language
· Has difficulty with word finding
· Uses “um” frequently when speaking
· Tends to ramble on when retelling events or explaining
· Mispronounces words
· Has poor expressive language across some or all of the language systems
· Gives slow or delayed responses to verbal stimuli
Learning and Attention
· Has short attention span
· Has difficulty focusing
· Is easily distracted
· Has difficulty with phonics and speech sound discrimination
· Has short auditory memory span and poor sequencing ability
· Has reading, spelling, and/or other learning problems
· Exhibits behavior problems
Communication strategies that enhance one person’s processing abilities may not necessarily have the same positive impact on another. Typically, strategies
that are most useful help individuals organize information before they listen,
comprehend information during listening and remember information after
listening. Before listening begins, individuals must be attending to the speaker
and be able to anticipate the most likely topic within a particular context.
Extraneous noise ought to be minimized and the level of speech may need to be
increased. It is sometimes helpful to enhance attention by telling the child the
topic and organization of the information they will hear, such as, “I am going to
tell you the four steps to complete this experiment”. It can also be helpful to
paraphrase and restate key information a clear way, by using statements such
as “Another way of saying the same thing is..” or “the main idea is..”, in order to
Visual gestures, expressions, models and pictures should be monitored and used to clarify spoken messages. During classroom and extracurricular activities, it is often helpful to assign the child a “buddy” to check assignments, notes, and directions. Learning to organize notebooks and use a schedule or an assignment book are important for remembering information, messages and directions at later times. Allowing students time to record important information and encourage them to check for accuracy is necessary.
Specific recommendations include the following:
1. Break down instructions into a simple and specific list of actions. "Wash your hands first; come back to the dinner table after" is more specific than "Go get ready; it’s time to eat".
2. Obtain visual attention first and then slow down the rate of speaking.
3. State the main topic, give the information, and restate the most important idea.
4. Allow more time for processing and comprehension of the instructions and allow the student time to paraphrase what they have heard. This allows the speaker to identify errors and correct them. The whole message does not need to be repeated, but the missing information should be added.
5. When a student is learning new information or material, be sure to check that they have processed new terms and concepts accurately.
6. The use of meaningful gestures and visual aids is important.