Student Stories: Improving Auditory Processing Skills

This is the second post in my series of Student Stories.  In this eight-part series, I’ll take you into my classroom to meet a child who worked to overcome challenges in one of the 8 Key Developmental Areas. (While the stories are true, I have changed the names of the students to protect their privacy.)

First, I’ll discuss one child’s specific weaknesses in the given developmental area. As you read, consider whether your child is showing any of the same warning signs or having any of the same struggles.

Second, I’ll highlight activities I did with the child (which you can easily do at home) to help him develop skills in that area. Focused practice through engaging and fun activities is all it takes for most children to develop skills that are lacking.

Auditory processing skills: Meet Kevin

Kevin entered the preschool classroom as many other children did that first morning of school. He was tentative, but reluctantly allowed his father to leave as we began our first activity. His hesitancy about starting school was normal for his age.

By the end of the first week of school, his discomfort in the classroom was increasing instead of diminishing.

While most children were relaxed in the classroom and followed directions comfortably, Kevin remained tense and frequently needed one-on-one direction from me. Even with simple one-step directions, he would wait for me to stand next to him for support before he began working. It seemed as though he did not trust himself to begin working alone. When I asked him why he had not begun working, and he frequently just shook his head and said he didn’t know.

girl listening to mother

I also noticed that he spent a lot of time watching others around him instead of completing his own work. Eventually other students in the class noticed his insecurity and would restate my instructions directly to him. I once saw Kevin begin to stand up after another student at Kevin’s table stood up. The other student pushed Kevin back down in his chair, saying, “I need to use the toilet so I’m getting up now, but you need to finish all your gluing and then you can get up.” I watched Kevin slump in his chair as his friend walked away. As a very bright boy, feeling lost in the classroom frustrated Kevin.

In meeting with Kevin’s parents to discuss my concerns, they explained that his two older sisters loved “playing house” and treating Kevin as their “baby.” They enjoyed jumping in to help Kevin when they heard their parents giving Kevin instructions and did things for him that he should have been doing for himself (such as getting dressed or cleaning up his toys). I explained how the sisters’ actions left no need for Kevin to follow his parents’ directions. In the classroom, Kevin was bright enough to complete most of the work, but his poor listening skills were holding him back.

Try this at home

Children need to learn how to be good listeners. Fortunately, strong auditory processing skills are easily honed through fun games that involve following spoken directions and verbal clues.

For example, try playing the game “Solve These Clues!” In this game, you give your child a series of verbal clues and your child tries to guess who, what or where you are referring to. For example, the clues “It’s in the refrigerator,” “You drink it at breakfast” and “It’s white” would all refer to milk. Begin by giving your child one-part clues and progress to giving two-part clues (such as “It’s in a the refrigerator and in a bottle”).

To help you get started, consider using some worksheets on following multi-step directions to help your child practice his great listening skills.

Kindergarten worksheets - following multi-step directions

First, clearly explain to your child that you will say each clue only one time. Consider making a physical gesture such as putting one hand up in the air before speaking to help alert your child to the fact that you are about to give him a clue and that he needs to pay attention.

Second, do not repeat any clues. If your child cannot guess the answer after hearing ample clues, ask him to recall and repeat some of the clues. As with Kevin, your child is likely intellectually capable of guessing the answer, but he just did not properly hear or process the clues.

If your child cannot repeat the clues, give him a hint about each of them. For example, using the “milk” example from above, ask your child if the mystery item is kept in the refrigerator or in the microwave. Hearing you repeat some of the words from the original clue (without repeating the full clue) will likely spark his memory.

Through the course of your normal day, follow the same practice of saying things only once and expecting your child to listen the first time. Also, enforce consequences if your child does not follow directions. The loss of a favorite toy because he did not put it away when asked or a missed dessert because he did not stop playing with his plate as requested will show your child that you are serious about your expectations and will encourage strong listening in the future.

kindergarten children listening

What can you share with other parents?

Does your child pay attention more easily in certain situations? Does your child enjoy hearing verbal directions or do you see him searching for visual clues to help him figure out what’s happening? What strategies have you tried that seem to work to improve your child’s auditory processing skills?

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Images used under Creative Commons from BC Gov Photos and woodleywonderworks.