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Get Ahead Kids - Vol. 3, No. 4 - July/August 2011

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I Forgot What I Had to Do - Auditory Processing & Learning

By Cate Larke

I often have parents at my centre comment that they are at a loss when it comes to their child's learning problems.

The children may be having problems with reading/comprehension, so they have had their eyes checked. They are not able to follow instructions, so they have had their ears checked.

Usually they are told that everything is OK. But is it?

Even though our ears hear sound, it is the brain which processes the information. Being able to process auditory information efficiently is extremely important for efficient learning, particularly reading and comprehension.

Auditory processing is also important for social development - how can you learn the rules of games if you can't sequence the information fast enough? How can you keep up with conversations and chat at recess? So poor auditory processing can impact children in a number of academic and social areas.

In the classroom, a child needs to hear and process efficiently with both ears - centrally. They need to be able to hear all the sounds around, but they need to be able to filter out unwanted noise and process what is important.

The teacher talking, a story being read or instructions being given, need to be attended to whilst the noise comes through the wall from next door or the child behind them is chatting! If they are unable to do this, all the sounds blend together and they struggle to follow what is going on around them.

They are often very easily distracted by noise around or outside the classroom and have poor concentration in the classroom. These children struggle to maintain attention.

Another type of issue that is often missed is auditory memory. Many of these children slip through the cracks of the education system- they often have age appropriate reading accuracy, but poor comprehension. This means they often don't particularly like reading.

Often children with this area of delay will enjoy non fiction - magazines where they don't have to follow a story line or they may not progress very well in reading once they get to late year 2 and year 3 where there is more print on the page and more complicated story lines to follow.

Many children we see at our centre fall into this group, and parents are distressed when they have been going well and suddenly in year 3 start to struggle. After a short burst of auditory training, they flourish.

Children with Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) often appear to have "short term memory loss". They can't retain the information they have heard, process, then act. This is made worse if there is background noise - such as sporting field or shopping centre.

Many children will show a decline in behaviour in noisy environments as they are overwhelmed and stressed by sensory input. Others will maintain good behaviour, but will be extremely tired at the end of the school day.

A range of very specific testing can check areas of processing including the speed at which the child processes sound. Once it is established that auditory processing is an issue, retraining the ears and brain can commence.

In the meantime, by keeping the classroom listening environment reasonably stable, helps those in the classroom struggling to process sound. For the child with problems, ask that they be seated at the front of the room, face on to the teacher, away from busy work areas and door.

Checklist Auditory Processing Disorder

  • Demonstrate problems with expressive language
  • If reading, often read with poor comprehension
  • Show auditory sensitivity
  • Have difficulty following instruction
  • Struggle to focus in a noisy classroom
  • Have difficulty with phonics
  • They often also present with:
  • Excessive behavioural problems
  • Physical coordination problems

More Information

Cate Larke
Essential Moves Children's Centre
P: 02 4967 1205


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