by Lizelle van Niekerk.
Auditory processing involves how the brain processes, or makes sense of, sound detected by the ear. Processing auditory information is a critical component of social communication, and people with autism spectrum disorders typically have problems processing this information.
Effective auditory processing requires the ability to differentiate certain sounds from others and the ability to amplify important sounds while ignoring unimportant ones. These skills are extremely important when paying attention to, understanding and remembering spoken information, especially in noisy environments.
When a person hears speech sounds but does not perceive the meaning of the sounds – for example, if someone says the word ‘tree,’ – the person might hear the sound clearly, but do not understand the meaning. During a conversation one needs to understand what someone else is saying. This involves separating words from the rest of the sounds around you, using both sound and visual cues to do so – focusing on the other person’s mouth and the pitch of their voice. Most people perform this kind of sound processing automatically, though it gets more challenging in noisy settings. That’s when we need to really concentrate on the person who’s talking with us. For a good analogy of what a person with an auditory processing disorder experiences, imagine trying to have a meaningful conversation with someone at a noisy party. You’re surrounded by noises at different volumes. People talking. Someone shouting. Music. A drink blender. Doors slamming. You get the idea……
One of the most challenging aspects in the classroom is the learners’ ability to react to verbal communication. Sometimes the lack of speech comprehension is interpreted by the teacher or class mates as an unwillingness to comply, when in fact the learner simply isn’t able to retrieve the meaning of the conversation at that moment. If we consider the dynamics of a typical classroom, learners have to deal with a lot of background noise such as cars passing, pencils falling, chairs screeching, tapping and whispering, tone of voice that differs for different scenario’s etc.
Learners with auditory processing disorders can hear, but they have difficulty making sense out of—or perceiving—what they hear. For example: they may have a hard time understanding if there is background noise, they may miss words, they are hearing normally, but are processing sound more slowly or they do not pay attention to changes in speech.
Help the learners in our classrooms by paying attention to the following:
1. Do not repeat instructions. Every time you repeat an instruction the whole processing process must start again which leaves the learner confused.
2. Talk lower, talk slower, use as few words as possible. Do not raise your voice. Give clear, simple instructions.
3. Make use of visual cue cards to enhance the understanding of the instruction.
4. Provide earphones for the learner to use to block out background noise.
Starting in front of the ears, using both hands simultaneously, gently tap upwards around the ears. This movement promotes temporal lobe stimulation to improve listening skills, auditory perception, vestibular stimulation, proprioception and balance. It also promotes integration between listening and communicating both in verbal and written form.
Massage both ear lobes simultaneously from top to bottom using circular movements. This move develops the near senses, auditory processing, auditory perception as well as receptive language ability.
Maintain the “string of beads” posture throughout this exercise. Place the palm of the hand against the forehead, pushing firmly for a count of eight. Remember to breathe. Alternate the position to the back of head, the left and the right side of head, repeating the process first with one hand and then the other.
Stephen M. Edelson. (2021) ‘Auditory Processing Problems in ASD’, Available at: www.autism.org/auditory-processing-asd/, (Accessed: 14 April 2022)
Schwartz Sophie. (2018) ‘Autism and Auditory Processing Disorder’, Available at: https://www.autismspeaks.org/expert-opinion/autism-and-auditory-processing-disorder, (Accessed: 14 April 2022)
Berke J. (2021) ‘Autism and Auditory Processing Disorders‘, Available at: https://www.verywellhealth.com/autism-and-auditory-processing-disorders-1048796#:~:text=As%20defined%20by%20the%20National,or%20perceiving%E2%80%94what%20they%20hear, (Accessed: 14 April 2022)
De Jager M. (2016) Wikkel die brein wawyd wakker. 2nd Edition. Mind Moves Institute. Johannesburg