How does it affect my child?


Imagine what it is like listening while you are underwater, or being in a foreign country where you understand only parts of what you hear. You smile, nod, and try to catch on; some of the rapidly spoken words are familiar but others are totally baffling, you listen for awhile, then lose interest as it becomes increasingly difficult to follow what’s being said.

This is what life is like for children with auditory processing problems. If they are particularly intelligent or social, they devise numerous strategies to cope in a world of rapidly changing speech. As the child gets older, however, these coping mechanisms lose their effectiveness. In the younger years, children with auditory processing problems fare more easily as oral directions are short and accompanied by gestures. As spoken interactions become more complex and learning in the classroom depends upon good listening and comprehension skills, these children face more academic, social, and self-esteem challenges.

Brain researchers such as Michael Merzenich, Ph.D., have proved (via brain imaging) that it is critical that one perceives the signal (what is said) accurately, understands the rapidly produced speech of others, and encodes this information into memory for later use. If one has ear infections as a young child, much of what the child heard and encoded during that time may have sounded “fuzzy” or may have been inaccurate due to the fluid in the ear distorting the sound.For others, a number of causal factors may have occurred, some we understand and some we don’t. Today, Neuroscience is evolving and we continually get better at understanding how our brains work. So, let’s say that because of the “fuzzy” sound, a child may hear “Go pat your toys” instead of “Go pack your toys.” Well the child figures it out based upon the knowledge that the family is going to Grandma’s this weekend.

However, these subtle changes in sounds and our ability to perceive them accurately and rapidly can certainly affect one’s ability to listen, learn, and remember. It can take a few milli-seconds or a few seconds to interpret the message. This delay in processing the auditory information may result in ‘losing’ parts of the next incoming signal and possibly encoding only pieces of the whole message.

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