About one in five struggling readers struggles with some level of auditory processing delays. Reading is visual, but how the brain processes sound makes a tremendous difference in how easily students can learn to read.
Auditory processing is how long, and how accurately, the brain takes to process the sounds and words it hears. With poor auditory processing, the brain takes longer to process information, especially new information. With this delay, the mind finds it difficult (or impossible) to hear rhymes or syllable breakdowns.
If this sounds familiar, what can you do?
Is There a Cure for Auditory Delays?
Auditory processing is a developmental issue. That means it’s like losing teeth, another developmental milestone. Children who lose their first teeth at age four are not “better” than those who lose their first teeth at age seven. If your five-year-old doesn’t have a loose tooth yet, you don’t get angry or start Tooth Loosening Therapy. It’s developmental, and it will happen when it happens.
Auditory processing is the same way. You can’t make it happen, so release yourself from that pressure. There is no appointment for you to make, no official diagnosis that will help. There is no fix for the neurology.
Most children work through their auditory processing issues and eventually catch up with their peers on their developmental schedule.
In the meantime, there are several things you can do to help.
A Game Plan for Dealing with Auditory Processing Delays
Since auditory processing is developmental, it’s easy to get discouraged and impatient. We see our child struggling to read, and we want the quick fix.
Though there is no special treatment that will eliminate their struggles immediately, there are three things we can do as parents to make help their development along and offer hope to our children and ourselves.
Book Language Immersion
If your child is dealing with auditory processing delays, Dr. Karen recommends that you start to practice book language immersion. Research shows that one of the best things you can do for children with auditory processing delays is to immerse them in massive amounts of good literature consistently.
You can read books aloud, or you can play audiobooks. The important thing is to turn off the television, shut off the screen, and let your children listen to books.
Dr. Karen recommends that all children have a listening device and that they listen to audiobooks as close to 24-7 as possible. Let them listen to good audiobooks again and again.
Over time, children’s brains start to process the information. If your child seems to zone out or ignore the story? No problem. Keep them listening.
I find it interesting that we first had radio dramas playing, then gradually started audiobooks. One day, my son put in earphones and started listening to books almost every waking hour. After a few months of doing this, he correctly, yet tentatively, guessed about a rhyme.
Yes, this is anecdotal, but I also realize all those hours of listening were not harmful to his brain.
Speak Slower, Not Louder
Remember, the difficulty with auditory processing is not a difficulty in hearing. Children with auditory processing delays have no difficulty hearing. A hearing aid won’t help, nor will louder speech.
Speak slower, not louder. Let your children’s brains catch up with what you are saying. Give them time to hear and respond.
If you’ve ever tried to speak a second language with a native speaker, and wanted to say, “Slow down! I can’t understand you,” you have an idea of how challenging this can be.
Also, consider how difficult it can be if you speed up a voice recording. It can be challenging to catch all the words, especially if the topic isn’t one you know well.
What if you lived in a land where everyone didn’t double the speed of their speech but went six times faster? Imagine what well you would understand?
Children have different degrees of auditory processing delays. Some children do process at about one-sixth the speed.
So slow down for them.
Children with auditory processing delays are always waiting for their next mistake. They are conscious that they are out of step with the rest of the world. This feeling often makes them tentative about their environment, because they’re not always sure what’s going on.
They are often anxious children and feel that others are frequently angry with them because they’re never where they’re supposed to be and can’t produce what they should be producing.
Math can be complicated for them because they need to learn so much new terminology and vocabulary. These children are already having trouble processing new concepts. When you add new vocabulary, it’s that much harder.
Many students manage to catch up, but in the schools, extra help usually dries up by third grade. There’s only so much funding, and it often dries up just when these students are just starting to get up to speed. Right as they are on the cusp of a breakthrough, they are left behind.
If you have children dealing with auditory processing, recognize that they need nurturing, which is something you can offer!
The choice of a reading program is also essential. That’s coming up next.
Focus on What They Can Do
What a relief to learn I didn’t have to keep drilling him on something he couldn’t do. In retrospect, it was like trying to make a toothless baby chew steak. It was the wrong task for their current development. Far better to focus on what my son could do, than lament over perceived deficiencies.
Your child will reach those developmental milestones; it just won’t be on the timeline expected by the outside world or structured schooling. However, with support and understanding, our child will not be crippled by these delays, they will thrive and overcome their reading challenges.