Tips for Helping Your Child with Their Auditory Processing Disorder

As we’ve covered in other posts, an audio processing disorder (APD) is a challenge in which a child struggles to understand sounds and information heard orally with ordinary levels of effort and in a healthy manner.

For more detailed info, read our blog on “What Is an Auditory Processing Disorder?”

These challenges can come in a variety of different forms, and can involve anything from struggling to understand verbal stimuli to hypersensitivity to noise.

If your child struggles in these areas, it’s a wise idea to have their skills examined at a young age so that any diagnosable APD conditions can be recognized and addressed while your child is still in their early mental development.

In the meantime, whether your child has an APD or simply just needs help with their listening comprehension and processing skills, here are a number of things you can try doing with them to help improve their abilities.

  1. Practice in a Quiet Space

Environment plays a major role in the difficulty level and the results you’ll get when practicing with your child on his or her auditory processing skills. Setting aside a quiet, controlled, dedicated space in which they can truly focus can not only help them overcome some of their challenges, but can also help them feel more comfortable with the process of working on these things. 

Needless to say, this can be a major game-changer for those struggling with hypersensitivity to noise—but it can also work wonders for those struggling with auditory discrimination, closure, and differentiation of sounds, as many of those challenges are complicated by background noise in daily life.

  1. Go At Their Pace

For a child with an APD, things that may feel simple to you can be very challenging. Therefore, it’s important to recognize that if you want your child to improve, you need to meet them where they are. For example, if they struggle to understand fast-paced speech, but have an easier time following slower speech, there is nothing wrong with speaking to them slowly during their practice efforts and increasing your speed gradually over time so that they can keep up. The same is true not only for pace, but for other skills—like answering questions, association, etc. 

Remember, slow and steady wins the race! As a parent, sticking with little steps may feel frustrating to you in the moment, but they add up to tremendous progress in the long run if worked on consistently. This will also help take some of the pressure off your child, and further contribute to creating a comfortable environment as discussed in the previous point.

  1. Use Visual Aids

For a child who’s challenges are primarily auditory, bringing in other communication methods that are easier or more familiar for them can be a very helpful idea. Not only is this yet another method of creating comfort, but it can help utilize their strengths to improve upon their challenges. 

For example, if your child loves to read, use written cue cards that visually state the same words you’re speaking when trying to help them practice understanding. If they’re artistic, try using pictures to create similar associations. Everyone learns differently, so finding a method that makes intuitive sense to your child and their strengths can go a long way.

  1. Use Repetition

Repetition, repetition, repetition! Our brains are hardwired to pick up on patterns, which is why things like song lyrics and poems are much easier for most of us to memorize than everyday prose. Repeating sounds or instructions multiple times may be a useful tactic for helping their brain to develop those links between sound and meaning. Furthermore, having your child verbally repeat things that you say forces their brain to think about the sounds in order to recreate them, and is therefore also good practice for building auditory processing skills.

  1. Practice Variations

This one specifically targets challenges with auditory discrimination, as its goal is to help your child learn to distinguish between minor differences in sound that change the meaning of a word, phrase, or sentence. Whether it’s having them practice identifying and recognizing different words that rhyme or contain similar letters, changing the intonation of your sentence to impact its tone or meaning, or changing the context of things you say in order to work on more complex meanings, juxtaposing small variations is an important factor in working on auditory processing skills.

  1. Make It Fun

As we’ve covered in another post, 7 Daily Activities that will Improve Your Child’s Auditory Processing Skills, there are many games and casual activities that inherently require a child to work on their auditory processing skills in order to play. Use this to everyone’s advantage! Not only can this method sneak some productive activities into their daily routine without overwhelming them, but it can also give them healthy playtime and social interaction in the process. 

Getting them to practice in a way that feels more like fun than like work is a great way to make your life easier as a parent, as well as improve their overall results. Be sure to try some of the games we list in this post!

  1. Give Them Previews

No one likes surprises. One way to take some of the challenge and pressure off your child as they work on their auditory processing skills is to give them advanced knowledge of what to expect. Take some time to walk them through the differences in similar-sounding words before you test their abilities to recognize them auditorily. If you plan to take them out somewhere to try and recognize words or sounds on their own, give them some time to practice them beforehand. There is nothing wrong with giving them time to become accustomed and familiar with new sounds, words, or concepts before you try to put them to use. In fact, it can add a level of comfort and assistance that can go a long way in helping your practice activities succeed at their intended goals.

  1. Try Different Formats

In everyday life, we need to be able to comprehend sounds that we hear in all sorts of different environments and settings. A good way to practice and build these skills is to have your child practice listening to sounds via different formats—i.e. direct in-person conversation, phone calls, recordings, speeches over microphones, etc. Each format presents its own unique benefits and/or challenges—and the more methods of consuming sound your child practices, the broader the scope their improved skills will be able to handle with relative ease.

At times, when your child is comfortable and/or otherwise ready to do so, it can also be a great idea to try some practice activities outside of your usual controlled environment and take them to new and different places to see how they can handle more varied sounds, including those intermixed with various background noises.

Looking for More Information?

These are a few easy methods of helping to improve the quality of your child’s skill-building efforts, but there are so many other things you can also try. The same principles behind each of these tips can be customized and applied to your child’s individual needs in whatever way might best help them improve on their specific, unique challenges.

If you found this information useful, and would like to learn more or find out how our programs can further help your child, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. Occupational Therapy can be a game-changing tool for children struggling with auditory processing challenges. Our team of experts at Smart Stride OT are always happy to chat and to assist in any way we can.

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