At a noisy party, are you able to hear what your friend next to you is saying? Can you tell the difference between the “ch” sound like in chew from the “sh” sound like in show? Are you able to recall a set spoken words or numbers in correct sequence? Does it bother you when you have to watch a movie that is dubbed for English translation because the words don’t match the mouth movements of the actor? These are all functions of auditory processing, a complex interaction when sound that comes through the ear is then changed into electrical information so that our brains can filter, organize and interpret. Many students with special needs struggle in the classroom to filter out background sounds (such as a HVAC fan or shuffling papers ) so that they can hear the teacher talking. Research suggests that with many children on the autism spectrum, vision and hearing are out of sync so they can get fatigued and overwhelmed when someone is speaking to them as the mouth movements of the speaker come ahead of the speech sounds resulting in the badly dubbed movie scenario. Still other students may overreact to busy school activities like the hall transitions during class changes or a pep rally in the gym as the sounds put their nervous system into high alert or “fight or flight” mode.
Here are 5 easy tips that may help with auditory processing:
1. Lower the number of sequential steps when giving verbal instructions (Instead of 4 steps give 2. Make sure the child is successful with these steps before adding 2 more).
2. Try lowering your speech rate of speed. Conversational speech is roughly about 120-160 words per minute or wpm. In contrast auctioneers are often in the 250-400 wpm range. Where is YOUR rate of speech?
3. Use visual cues (written or pictures) in addition to giving verbal directions.
5. Try using noise reduction headphones like the Hush Buddy for children with sound sensitivity.
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