Understanding Auditory Processing

  • Auditory processing skills develop at different rates in children.
  • Auditory processing capacity is the ability of the children to hold, sequence and process or understand what they have heard.
  • The ability to hold and process language is a maturational process that develops with time.
  • These skills do not necessarily develop at the same rate as general intelligence or expressive language.
  • If a mismatch in development occurs, i.e. if the children’s auditory processing skills are delayed in their development (or language intake processing skills), then a barrier to communication and learning can arise.

Delayed development affects many aspects of learning including:

  • Following directions, instructions or explanations
  • Acquiring literacy including reading, spelling, comprehension and written and expressive language
  • Ability to sustain concentration and attend to tasks
  • Appearing disruptive or non compliant if they do not understand.

With early identification and good strategies in place the impact on the child’s learning and behavior can be reduced.

In every classroom there will be a number of children with delayed skills in auditory processing, typically 20%. They may present in a variety of ways:

  • Appear to daydream
  • Be easily distracted or restless
  • Say “what” a lot, look blank
  • Be unresponsive to verbal instructions
  • May be talkative
  • Can be shy and withdrawn
  • Become frustrated

These children usually have normal hearing BUT have difficulty in being able to listen and understand what people are saying quickly enough to follow what is going on around them. Each child will respond differently to language overload depending on his/her personality and life experiences.

A child with delayed development in Auditory Processing skills may:

  • Experience difficulties learning to read and spell eg. Putting together a word like C-A-T requires a digit span of 3
  • Experience difficulty in learning in areas where language is critical eg reading comprehension, story writing
  • Not know what is happening around him/her or what is expected
  • Become frustrated, angry or difficult to control
  • Appear anxious, overactive or poorly focused
  • Seem disorganised and slow to complete work
  • Suffer from poor self esteem

Often these children lose confidence in being able to listen and do things that their peers can do. Experiencing success is very important. Many times every day they can be faced with situations that result in confusion and misunderstanding.

The APAK provides a number of communication strategies that teachers and parents can employ to ensure that the child is operating at their optimal level.

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You could see it on their faces, the look of bewilderment. There were always children who seemed just lost in the classroom I’ve had great success with it. When you teach in this way, it’s like a light comes on. The children know what you are talking about.

Teacher at Woodlands Primary School, Langwarrin, Victoria