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Improving Auditory Processing - Listening to Language

By Sharon Hensley

 Before I discuss remediation of auditory processing problems, let me encourage those of you with sound sensitive children to consider pursuing Auditory Integration Training. (NATHHAN Editor's note: For a great overview of AIT, see her newsletter Turning Challenges into Opportunities AVCS books 408-997-0290. E-mail her at E-Mail Sharon sharonavcs@aol.com: ) Although it is expensive, I have seen it make a huge difference in my daughter's ability to tolerate and process sounds and language (though it did not cure her language issues.) Recently, resources for "home" AIT programs have come on the market. Although this is a good alternative if you cannot afford AIT, they can never be as sensitive to each child's unique sound problems as the programs done by an audiologist. For information on finding an AIT therapist in your area, contact the Autism Research Institute at http://www.autism.com/ For information on home programs, visit Vision Audio Inc. 1- 888-213-7858 http://www.vision-audio.com/

 No matter the cause of the auditory problems, I believe that basic remediation is vital. Although you can certainly opt to work around many aspects of learning disabilities, the ability to listen accurately and interpret at least basic language concepts is so fundamental to all other learning that it is almost impossible to NOT work on these areas! The three main categories of processing that I will address here are auditory analysis skills, auditory skills and basic auditory interpretation skills. There are a number of good resources for working on these areas. I am going to describe the main resources and the types of exercises each uses. Resist the temptation to give up at the first tears, or consider using an outside therapist if you find it difficult to work in your child's weak areas.

Analysis Skills

 Sometimes these skills are called phonemic awareness skills, but don't think we are just talking about phonics here. Although analysis skills do have to do with letter sounds, we are more concerned with knowing if a child can tell where a sound is in a word. This is the most fundamental skill in auditory processing. Hearing discreet, single sounds accurately or hearing the separate parts of words accurately is vital to understanding spoken language.

 Directions for both testing and improving auditory analysis skills are given in the book, Helping Children Overcome Learning Differences by Jerome Rosner (NATHHAN editor's note: This book is available from ACVS Books and is also in the NATHHAN Lending Library). These exercises teach children "to identify the separate sounds in spoken words and the temporal sequence of those sounds. Pg. 44 of the book). Here is a sampling from a few of the various levels of exercises.

1. "Say baseball. Now say it again, but not say ball."

2. "Does this word end in the \m\ sound? Trim? Bend?"

3. "Say sad. Now say it again, but say \m\ instead of \s\."

 Another excellent resource for analysis skills is the Lindamood-Bell LIPS program for teaching phonemic awareness. Although this is expensive, it is excellent especially if you do not have access to help in working with your child. The manual and kits are available from PRO-ED (1-800-897-3202). The kit sells for about $150.00 - which may put it out of reach from many people. There are also many therapists who use these techniques, although this is even more expensive! Because this type of work can be difficult but is such an important base for further learning, you may want to consider therapy if your child is really stuck and you could use the help and support. Call Lindamood-Bell at 1-800-233-1819 for more information about their clinics, or look for a reading therapist using this method. The core method in this therapy program is teaching kids to link SOUNDS with the PHYSICAL ACTIONS of their lips, tongue and mouth. By thinking yourself how your mouth is "acting" as you make certain sounds and helping your child become aware of these physical cues, you can help them develop the ability to check their reading and speaking errors. This takes lots of practice, but can be done with any phonics program that you already have. (By the way - if any of you own the 1st Straight Talk for articulation, there are many good tips on mouth, lip and tongue placement there.)

 A similar method also developed by Lindamood-Bell is explained in the book Seeing Stars. This book explains how to practice the basics of phonological awareness and then links those skills to reading and spelling - which is definitely the goal. The Seeing Stars manual is available from AVCS Books.

 For those of you who would like to use the computer, there are several good auditory awareness programs available on CD-ROM. One of the best is the Phonemic Awareness program from LocuTour.

 Finally, many of you have heard of the FastForWord program. This is an excellent tool for improving auditory processing, but like Lindamood-Bell is very expensive. There is an excellent web site, which gives information about this program and referrals to therapists who can administer it ( www.scientificlearning.com )As with any of these programs, the promises are sometimes sky high, but the reality is that for most kids this will only solve a PIECE of their overall learning difficulties. If you can afford the expense, then it is a good investment in remedial theory to strengthen this specific area. It is also a good way to give yourself a break. But is you cannot afford these more expensive programs, you are not dooming your child. Get the LocuTour CD-ROM or the Jerome Rosner book and work on strengthening these skills. Stimulation to the brain, consistently applied, will always produce results in the long run. You have to hang in there!!

Auditory Memory Skills

 Auditory memory for longer and longer pieces of information is the next important step in strengthening processing. Even if a student can hear single sounds and words, he cannot go on to the next stage of language comprehension without being able to remember multiple pieces of information. Exercises in this category include things like remembering strings of numbers or random words, repeating sentences or paragraphs word for word, and listening to strings of directions and then carrying them out.

Some good resources for these types of exercises can be found in the book, In One Ear and hopefully Not out the Other! Available from Trudy Palmer, P.O. Box 460514, San Antonio, TX 78246-0514 or call the Gift Of Reading (210) 828-5179.

Another resource for working on stretching auditory memory is the book, Listen My Children and You Shall Hear. This book contains paragraphs of three different lengths, which are read out loud to the student and then repeated. If the paragraph is not repeated accurately, it is read again until the student can repeat it verbatim. This is real stretching exercise, but very valuable! This book is available from ACVS Books. (Your can also do this type of exercise with Bible verses instead of paragraphs. What a great way to combine therapy with the truth of God Word!!)

Interpretation Skills

 Now we are really getting into the point where auditory processing and language concepts overlap. Once auditory processing is accurate, it must become useful for interpreting language. Skills in this area include listening for the main idea in a story, picking our details, following directions, understanding questions, and categorizing. Use any skill, which combines listening and language comprehension.

A great way to work in this area is the Charlotte Mason approach of having children listen to oral reading and then having them summarize what they have heard. This is a powerful tool to teach careful listening.

LinguiSystems (call 1-800-Pro.Idea to request a catalog. It has a huge assortment of materials aimed at auditory processing difficulties. Two of my favorites are HELP for Auditory Processing and No Glamour Auditory Processing.

Trudy Palmer's book (see above) also has a good exercise for some of the basic skills in this area.