Imagine for a minute that you are a student with an auditory processing difficulty and almost all of your direct whole group instruction is presented orally and verbally. In other words, the teacher is standing and delivering new instructional content, but as a student with an auditory processing challenge, your brain is struggling to process those subtle sounds in words and language and therefore a majority of the instruction is missed or misunderstood. I often compare the phenomena to the cartoon, Charlie Brown, and the scenes in the classroom where the teacher’s voice simply sounds like gibberish (waaaa whaaaa….waaaa whaaaa).
When a child is referred for a psycho-educational assessment with a referral question related to auditory processing there are several assessment strategies that I used to determine or rule out difficulties in this area. The process includes a through record review to establish student history and baseline, interviews with pertinent stakeholders, observations, and formal assessment. Formal assessment often includes an assessment of these areas:
- Auditory discrimination or Phonological Processing: refers to an individual’s awareness of and access to the sound structure of his oral language. Additionally, the ability to notice, compare and distinguish between distinct and separate sounds.
- Auditory memory: the ability to recall what you’ve heard, either immediately (short-term memory and recall) or when you need it later (long-term memory and retrieval).
- Rapid Naming: the ability to efficiently retrieve phonological information from long-term or permanent memory, and execute a sequence of operations quickly and repeatedly to efficiently retrieve phonological information from long-term or permanent memory, and execute a sequence of operations quickly and repeatedly.
- Auditory Cohesion: assesses auditory comprehension and reasoning skills. This a is a high-order linguistic skill that requires the student to appreciate and hone in on thematic elements of oral language, including but not limited to making inferences, deductions and abstractions.
Once it’s determined that a student meets the eligibility criteria for a Specific Learning Disability in the area of auditory processing, these are often some of the recommendations I provide in order to best support the students’ progress:
- Accommodations: such as changes in timing, formatting, setting or presentation of assignment, preferential seating away from distractions, closing doors and windows to minimize outside noise, checking for understanding or asking student to be an “echo” to repeat important information presented, quiet room for test taking or independent work;
- Modifications: altering assignments to minimize the area of weakness;
- Reading Instruction: your child could have one-on-one or group instruction in reading skills, targeting any areas of weakness;
- Classroom visuals: the teacher uses images and gestures to reinforce the child’s understanding and memory.
It’s important to note that each of the recommended strategies will not work for every student. The process of determining which strategies work and which don’t may be a process of trial and error. The key is to try various strategies until a successful match is established.
Meka Tull, School Psychologist and Interim Director of School Partnerships