“When my son reads, he struggles so much because he has to sound out the same word over and over again in the story.”
“When I give my son three simple directions, he only does one . . . if that! I’m sure he has an auditory processing problem.”
How the Brain Processes
What is happening when bright, hardworking kids and teenagers have to expend so much energy to process things auditorily? For all of us, the left auditory brain hemisphere is supposed to learn new material and then transfer it to the right visual hemisphere for long-term storage and easy retrieval. When a child or teenager is struggling in this area, the hemispheres are not communicating as they should, as if there is a “disconnect.”
What Are the Symptoms of an Auditory Processing Problem?
When a child is experiencing a significant auditory processing problem, the child/teenager almost always has difficulty with these areas of learning:
- Sight Words: “Word retrieval” is difficult. Child tries to sound out all sight words. For example, what = w-h-a-t.
- Difficulty learning names of alphabet letters when younger.
- Phonics: Phonics “rules” (think auditory input) don’t stick, even with games. Sounds out same word over and over again while reading. Parents are often on their third or fourth phonics program.
- Reads “extra” letters in a word that aren’t there, such as an n or r. Often two or more years below grade level in reading when older.
- Words can’t be read by anyone else because they are not even spelled phonetically.
- Leaves out consonants and whole syllables, not just vowels, which are tricky for everyone.
- Spells word differently each time.
- Has no “picture” of the word in his head.
- Math facts difficult to learn even with music, games, “raps,” and much repetition.
- Skip counting or remembering the order of months of the year is hard.
- Mental math is difficult (hearing his own silent voice).
- Because most curricula rely on auditory teaching methods (reading, worksheets, listening to lecture), child appears to have memory issues.
- A child who is using too much energy for focus/attention can also appear to have a poor memory.
5. Tongue Twisters
- Ordering sounds is hard, so child says words like sundenly, shuspicious, and mazagine.
- Child avoids saying harder words in conversation.
6. Understanding Verbal Directions
- When a child asks for directions to be repeated much, or says “What?” a lot, it can be a focus/attention issue or an auditory issue, if many other symptoms are present.
Not all of these symptoms need to be present to have an auditory processing dysfunction. The more severe the issue, the more symptoms will be present.
What to Do?
Homeschooling parents have found that they can make learning easier for their child by doing two steps at home: bypassing and correcting. The child’s difficulty with auditory processing of material can be bypassed by using more visual, right-brain teaching methods. Let’s look at some of these successful methods that parents use at home to help their child “get in touch with the smart part of themselves.”
- Right-Brain Sight Words
This teaching technique involves imbedding the picture of the word onto the letters. Very struggling readers love this method because they can immediately remember the words to read and spell.1 These words can be made at home . . . no expense!
- Right-Brain Phonics
For a struggling reader, an intensive phonics program is necessary. Because of the auditory processing problem, games, workbooks, writing, or black and white cards often don’t transfer to easier reading. For my students in my Resource Reading class in school, I created a Right-Brain Phonics reading method, which uses the imbedding process. Using this method, I was able to see a two-year growth in my students, aged 7–14, in one year.2
- Other Intensive Phonics Programs
In my experience with struggling readers who have a fairly severe auditory processing problem, I have found only five programs that seem to work well. If you would like a list of these five programs and their descriptions, just email me, firstname.lastname@example.org, and put “Alternative Phonics Programs” in the subject line.
- Spelling “rules” are auditory. Thus, they do not stick for this population. To bypass this spelling glitch, I used the Right-Brain Spelling method with my students in school. I taught them how to use their strong photographic memory for memorizing spelling words. It worked remarkably well and effectively removed the spelling-related stress from a child’s life.
When I taught my gifted sixth- through eighth-graders, I used this method exclusively to get a two- to three-year growth in spelling in a year. To read about how to use this easy, inexpensive method, read the article titled “Teaching a Right Brain Child” in the TOS Summer 2011 magazine.
- Math is one of the most auditory subjects that we teach. Because the math facts and processes are often taught by using rules (think auditory) and repetition, the child can become very discouraged, and the parent feels that the child isn’t “trying” to learn the facts.
Once again, I relied on the child’s photographic memory as I taught the facts and expected him to remember the processes. On my website, I have a free download for parents who are interested in learning more about these easy strategies. It is called “Tutoring Instructions for Math.”
While the parent is successfully bypassing the auditory processing glitch, steps can be taken that will actually help to “correct” the child’s processing issue. This is a very exciting part of working with a struggling learner. I have used two main methods to correct an auditory processing problem in the children I have worked with: Brain Integration Therapy and Targeted Nutritional Interventions.
This is the exciting part. I found that I could effectively increase connections between the left/right, top/bottom, and back/front part of the brain by using very specific body exercises to train the brain. I used the Brain Integration Therapy Manual for that, doing the program that takes twenty minutes a day. This is the method I used in my Resource Room classes with my bright but struggling learners, resulting in a two-year growth in reading in one year, when used with right-brain teaching strategies (www.diannecraft.org).
Another way to help improve brain connections would be to “outsource” this brain integrating process by seeking out therapies such as The National Association for Child Development or Can-Do outside of the home. Auditory sound programs have also proven to be helpful: Auditory Integration Therapy or the Fast ForWord program.
As a nutritionist, it has been my experience that by using targeted nutritional supplements many parents have found that they can greatly increase their child’s auditory processing ability. This subject will be explored in great detail in next month’s The Struggling Learner article: “The Biology of Auditory Processing and Memory Issues.” To view a slide presentation of this article, click on this link and then look for the words, “click this link” a few lines above the author’s signature.
We will continue discussing this subject next month!
Questions? Email Dianne short questions at: email@example.com.
1. To see an example of this method, go to www.diannecraft.org.
2. You can view this teaching method on my website.
Dianne Craft has a master’s degree in learning disabilities. She speaks widely at homeschool conventions across the country. Her books, Brain Integration Therapy Manual, Right Brain Phonics Program, and her DVDs, Understanding & Helping the Struggling Learner, Teaching the Right Brain Child, Smart Kids--Who Hate to Write, and The Biology of Behavior have helped hundreds of families remove learning blocks in their struggling children at home. Visit her website, www.diannecraft.org, for many articles on children and learning and to download her free Daily Lesson Plans for the Struggling Reader and Writer.
Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the April 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.
Publication date: January 24, 2014