Some parents refer to this as selective hearing, but your child may actually have trouble listening. While hearing is the ability to detect sound, listening is how the brain processes auditory information.

Children with poor auditory processing skills tend to exhibit the following problems:

  • Trouble hearing or easily distracted in noisy environments.
  • Hard time following a conversation or following directions.
  • Disorganized and forgetful.?
  • Problems with reading, comprehension, spelling and/or writing.
  • Trouble recalling a story in proper sequence.
  • Difficulty understanding verbal math problems.

Auditory processing problems closely mimic ADHD symptoms and children are often misdiagnosed. A child having trouble processing auditory information will often appear to be inattentive.

It is similar to a bad cell phone connection. The child does not get all of the information, which results in absentminded behaviors.

Auditory processing difficulties are also related to dyslexia. Neurologists at Yale University compared brain images of children reading. From these scans, researchers discovered that the auditory/language centers of children who read well light up — indicating plenty of blood flow. Children with less blood flow in those areas had difficulty reading.

Promote phonological proficiency

Children begin to read with their ears first. Sound-play activities such as nursery rhymes and sound-to-word associations such as “D is for dog” all pre-wire the brain for the concept that a letter (visual) is a code for a sound (auditory). Children with strong phonological awareness tend to be good readers.

Phonological awareness is the explicit understanding of a word’s sound structure. It is critical to decoding printed words (reading) and forming connections between sounds and letters (spelling).

Tasks that require children to segment words into syllables, produce rhyming words, identify sounds in words and blend sounds to make words are examples of phonological-awareness skills.

Here are activities to enhance phonemic awareness:

  • Phonemic deletion: What word would be left if the “K” sound were taken away from “cat”?
  • Word-to-word matching: Do “pen” and “pipe” begin with the same sound?
  • Blending: What word would we have if we put these sounds together: “S,” “A” and “T”?
  • Sound isolation: What is the first sound in “rose”?
  • Phoneme segmentation: What sounds do you hear in the word “hot”?
  • Phoneme counting: How many sounds do you hear in the word “cake”?
  • Odd word out: What word starts with a different sound: “bag,” “nine,” “beach,” or “bike”?

Copyright 2009. Used by permission of the author. First published in Arizona Home Education Journal, June 2009

Lynn Carahaly, MA, CCC-SLP, is the owner and director of Listening Ears, LLC and FDH Kids, LLC located in both Chandler and Scottsdale, Arizona. Lynn received her Bachelors and Masters degrees from Ohio State University and is pursuing her Ph.D. in the field of Speech Language Pathology.  Lynn is a member of the American Speech and Hearing Association, the National Coalition on Auditory Processing Disorders, and the Learning Disabilities Association of America.