Auditory Processing: What is it and Why is it Important?

If you have a child who has reading struggles, you may have heard the terms “auditory processing” and “phonemic awareness,” especially if they are in lower elementary.

Auditory processing is the brain’s ability to “handle” the sounds in our language. That means, the brain is able to:

  • discern individual sounds that make up a specific word (CAT consists of “c” “a” “t”)
  • distinguish similar sounds (“nick” vs “neck”)
  • repeat the order of sounds (“elephant” vs ephalent”)
  • produce rhymes
  • identify rhymes
  • Be flexible with word play (change the “t” in “tip” to “s” and the new words is “sip”).
  • focus on important sounds in a noisy environment. People with Auditory Processing issues often have a hard time distinguishing sound level; background noise can be as “noisy” as a person talking to them, especially in a large group setting like a classroom.
  • Recall what has been heard.
  • Successfully follow verbal directions (multi-step directions are even more difficult!)
  • Follow conversations, especially when there are several people talking in a group

Why is the development of Auditory Processing important?
An auditory processing weakness is the number one predictor of reading problems. That is why preschool and early elementary programs focus so heavily on nursery rhymes, songs, and word play – they are developing auditory processing in their students. That’s why early grades test a student’s PHONEMIC ability – they are testing their auditory processing ability. Reading interventions are generally based, in lower elementary, on a child’s phonemic or auditory processing ability and interventions seek to develop this ability.

Symptoms of weak Auditory Processing: While all of these may not be present, and this list is not complete by any means, generally a person will have difficulty with:

  • Isolating the individual sound in a word (“Cat” is made up of “C” “a” and “t”)
  • Distinguishing similar sounds (“nick” vs “neck” may sound the same to them)
  • Successfully repeating the sounds in words (“hogspetti” for “spaghetti”)
  • Producing rhymes (come up with a word that rhymes with “car”)
  • Identify rhymes (do “car” and “cake” rhyme?)
  • Manipulating the sounds in words (if you change the “t” in “tip” to “s”, what is the new word?)
  • Maintaining focus and attention
  • Verbal directions
  • Verbal math problems
  • Following verbal directions, especially multi-step
  • Reading and spelling
  • The flow of conversations, especially if there are several people talking in a group.
  • Musical ability
  • Learning songs or nursery rhymes
  • Remembering details of what is read or heard

If you have questions about whether or not someone you love may have weak auditory processing, call Metro Learning Solutions and talk over your concerns. Some may be developmentally appropriate. If further testing is indicated, that can be done at a convenient time for you and your child.

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We serve families in the Metro Des Moines, Iowa area.

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