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Auditory Processing Dysfunction Characteristics

Your child may be struggling with auditory processing dysfunction if he or she exhibits the following difficulties:

Difficulty remembering sight words, including;

  • Trouble retrieving names of letters, words, people, and things.
  • Laboring over verbal expression.

Difficulty with phonics, including:

  • Trouble remembering sounds of letter combinations such as “au,” “oi.”
  • Difficulty applying phonics rules in a reading setting.
  • Sounding out the same word over and over in the same reading passage.

Spelling difficulties, including:

  • Trouble spelling phonetically (the child may spell “team” as “tie” or “went” as “wat.”)
  • Spelling the same word differently each time.

Difficulty sequencing sounds, including:

  • Trouble learning and retaining days of the week and months.
  • The child guesses at words because reading longer words is very hard.
  • The child puts extra sounds in a word (ie., contribution becomes contribu’ta’tion), “band” becomes “brand.”

Difficulty saying longer words:

  • Transposing letters: “animal” is “aminal;” “magazine” is “mazagine;” “suddenly” is “sundenly.”
  • Avoiding difficult words when speaking.

The child’s silent voice disappears:

  • He or she subvocalizes when reading silently, or needs to read aloud to understand a passage.
  • He or she needs to repeat the alphabet in his head when writing it out.

Difficulty with speech, including:

  • Trouble articulating many sounds.
  • Exhibiting language delay.

Difficulty understanding verbal instruction:

  • He or she needs to ask for directions to be repeated frequently.
  • He or she says “what” a lot.
  • An apparent hearing problem can mimic a focusing and attention issue. The key is determining whether the child really is not hearing and storing the information auditorally, or if the child is not focusing on what is being said.
  • He or she is easily confused or is never quite sure he understood the speaker.

Informal Evaluations

An auditory processing dysfunction can manifest itself in so many different ways. Many adults and children have mild auditory processing problems, but find ways to compensate for it in their daily lives. It is a bigger struggle for a child to learn with an auditory processing issue, than with just a visual processing issue, or a visual/motor (writing) processing issue. The left auditory brain hemisphere is responsible for retaining sounds, words, and auditory information. When this process is experiencing a block, the child doesn't know why he can’t remember what was just taught, nor does the parent.

Storing and retrieving information: Ask the child to write the alphabet. Observe carefully to see whether the child hesitates after writing several letters, then begins again. Watch for this hesitation throughout the writing of the alphabet.

If the child hesitates in writing a letter that follows a letter that has a directional component to it, such as “b,” “d,” “p,” “q,” “j,” “g,” then it could be that he has a spatial problem, and had to think about what direction the letter should be written. However, if the child hesitates after writing “e,” or “h,” then you can suspect that he has lost his silent voice…his “thinking” voice, and is having to go back and say the alphabet over and over in his head.

With older children, you can ask if they had to say the alphabet over several times in their head while doing the alphabet, and they can tell you exactly where they felt they had to stop and repeat. The efficient storage and retrieval of 26 units is one sign of an auditory processing dysfunction.

Sequencing: Ask the child to say the days of the week, and then the months of the year. The months represent sequencing and ordering unrelated sounds. If this is difficult for the child despite being taught it before, or if the child leaves out some months (they often leave out either October or August, because they start with the same sound), assure him that many children do.

However, these difficulties could indicate that the auditory channel of sequencing is not working as well as it should, and causing your child to struggle with learning. If a child is laboring with auditory sequencing then the popular way of teaching multiplication tables through skip counting will be more difficult for that child. That child would greatly benefit from using right brain teaching strategies, using the child’s photographic memory to memorize multiplication facts easily.

Word retrieval: The two brain hemispheres have individual responsibilities. When we understand these responsibilities we can see understand where a child’s processing is breaking down in the reading process.

The right brain stores pictures. This means that all of the sight words (words that cannot be sounded out, such as “the,” “many,” etc.) are stored in the right brain after the child has been exposed to these words for several days. The name of the word is stored in the child’s left auditory hemisphere. Normally, when the two hemispheres are working well together, when the child sees the word (a right brain function), the name comes up quickly (a left brain function), and the child remembers the sight word.

To check the efficiency of this process, have your child read a list of words at his grade level. If your child consistently hesitates at words such as “would, what, know and neighbor,” or if he attempts to sound out every word, then make a note of that. If the child is not reading yet, you can have him read, or attempt to name the alphabet letters that you have taught him. If this is very difficult, then we can assume that this is a child who is struggling with the word retrieval portion of an auditory processing dysfunction. There are wonderful methods to help this child.

Hearing individual letters: This is the auditory channel that is involved in learning and remembering the sounds that letters and letter combinations get. We teach this in great detail in phonics. Have your child read a list of words that are on the child’s reading level (if you don’t have a list, you can obtain one from HSLDA Learning Specialist Department, if you are a member). If your child cannot sound out a word, for example, cannot remember the “f” sound to begin a word, or laboriously sounds out “f-a-t,” and then says “fan,” you know you have a child suffering in this area. If your child is older, and guesses at longer words, because he cannot remember the phonemes (vowel and letter combinations) to sound it out easily, then that child is suffering also in this area. Many times these are children who played the Phonics Game well, and knew all the “pieces” (left brain function), but cannot put it into a “whole” (right brain function), when reading a passage. Make a note of your results.

Resources for Correction

  • Speech therapy.
  • Brain training with music. Various programs include:
    • The Listening Program by Dr. Tomatis helps retrain the auditory processing area of the brain.
    • AIT (Auditory Integration Therapy) home program that requires a speech therapist to work with parent.
    • Samonas Listening Program, which requires a professional.
    • Interactive Metronome (corrects child’s timing, among other things) non-home professional program.
  • LinguiSystems (word games, workbooks, etc.)
  • Brain Integration Therapy for Children, a home-based therapy program for parents to administer. Visit www.diannecraft.org.
  • Specialized reading Instruction. Various programs include:
    • Right brain teaching strategies (bypassing the auditory glitch)
    • Merrill Linguistic Readers (very few sight words)
    • Lindamood Phonemic Awareness Program (professional program)
    • Wilson’s Reading Program
  • Nutritional Therapy:

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