Originally Posted: ILS Learning Corner

As a mom, it’s easy to feel ignored. That pair of shoes you asked your child to put away is still in the middle of the living room floor. They ask you where their favourite shirt is when it was on top of the pile of clothes you handed to them and told them to put in their drawers. Or my personal favourite, they pop open that package of candy not even a full minute after you said no.

I was a kid once and I’m woman enough to admit that I did my fair share of pretending not to hear my parents (don’t tell my kids). But that also means I know there were plenty of times I was just so wrapped up in my own thoughts that I wasn’t paying attention. I think for most cases, the latter is probably true and we can even tack on good intentions. They probably meant to follow through with your instructions, but another opportunity arose much more appealing than taking out the garbage and they forgot to come back later. But for some kids the lack of listening or following through on instructions is a little more complicated than that.

Kids with Auditory Processing Disorders (ADP) experience a breakdown between what the ear hears and what the brain processes. ADP can result in difficulty understanding spoken language and then later recalling what they heard. Children with this, many sometimes struggle with background noise or loud sounds. And although they ask what and huh all the time, they don’t have a hearing problem.

The meaning of sounds just don’t quite compute the way they’re supposed to. You may ask, “Will you please help with the dishes?” But what they heard was “did you see the fishes?” This is frustrating for both parent and child. And honestly, how can you tell if you’re being ignored or if your child has some form of ADP? Well we’re here to help with some signs you can look for.

AUDITORY PROCESSING: Understanding your child’s hearing

Signs of ADP

  • Doesn’t like being read to. It’s easy to see how an activity that most children love can be a pain to a child that has difficulty processing spoken words and sounds. The magic of the story is lost in the lack of comprehension.
  • Doesn’t like to read, especially as they get older into Jr. high and high school. A lot of kids can find at least a book or series they enjoy as they get older, but that’s not usually the case with ADP kids.
  • Struggling to process what they hear. Many times you can tell they’re trying to understand, but it’s just not quite sinking in.
  • Understands written language better than spoken language.
  • Can’t sit still while listening to teachers or story time. It’s hard to stay focused when they can’t process what’s going on well enough to hold their attention.
  • Bothered by noises like the vacuum or even small sounds like tapping pencils. This comes from a hypersensitivity to sound and the inability to handle background noises.
  • Hears but doesn’t listen. For example, your child tells you they’re going out to play. You say “no” and they say “ok, I’ll see you later” and walk out the door anyway.
  • Speech delays. When it’s hard to distinguish and make sense of sounds, it’s hard to speak correctly. For example a child might turn “throw” into “frow” and so on.
  • Struggles to have normal conversations with friends and classmates.
  • Trouble recalling sounds in music or learning an instrument. The difficulty with processing extends past the inability to understand words and creates problems with sounds in general.
  • Struggles with letters, spelling and words. Much of learning literacy requires the ability to process sounds. Without the ability to distinguish between “t” and “d” or other similar sounding letters, learning is going to become difficult quickly. This is often confused with dyslexia.
  • Doesn’t understand puns or jokes. These require catching slight differences in words or in emphasis, which is difficult with ADP

Processing sounds is a huge part of life. When this becomes difficult, so do so many other tasks. Luckily, if your child shows any of these signs, there are lots of programs and intervention out there to help.