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WHAT IS AUDITORY PROCESSING?

Put simply, auditory processing is “what we do with what we hear”

In other words, it is the ability of the brain (i.e. The central nervous system) to process incoming auditory signals. There are many different areas of auditory processing, including:

Amplitude Perception

What is the perceived loudness of sounds measured in decibels (dB)
Sometimes what is actually present as the sound source and what a child “perceives” to be the volume are two very different things. If a child is hypersensitive to sound, they will process the incoming sound as much louder than it really is (may put hands over ears and say things are too loud, running from a sound source, crying, temper tantrums, self-injurious behavior, auditory self-stimulation (e.g. humming or constant mindless chatter is often common in autistic children but not limited to autism), “tuning out”, ignoring certain sounds, withdrawal etc.). If they are hyposensitive to sound, they will process the sound as much softer than it is (may need to have volume turned up high on a CD player or TV etc.).

Frequency Perception

Frequency perception, selectivity and discrimination are often used interchangeably.

Auditory Attention

Attend, focus or listen to sound
It is almost without exception that children and adults that I see with auditory processing difficulties cannot focus and have difficulty with attention spans. If they have no auditory attention, or if this skill is impaired, then sitting still in school and listening, following instruction etc. is virtually impossible.

Frequency perception is our ability to perform a frequency analysis i.e. the ability to split sounds into frequency bands.

If a child or adult is unable to analyse sounds correctly and store them in the correct frequency bands, accessing the information becomes slower and more difficult. This also comes into play with speech and being able to identify which sounds (vowels and consonants) are occurring on which frequency bands. As each vowel and consonant occurs on a specific frequency, this can sometimes lead to children swapping consonants e.g. “free” instead to “three”.

Sound Localisation and Lateralisation

Identify where sound has occurred in space
Children or adults who lack this skill have sensory integration difficulties. They may have difficulty telling their right from their left hand, co-ordination, fine or gross motor control etc. We use this skill subconsciously every day e.g. when we hear a car coming around the corner, we turn our head to the sound source so we can see where the car is and get out of the way. Not knowing which direction a sound is coming from can be very disorientating.

Auditory Discrimination
Distinguish between sounds or words that are similar or different in the way they sound.
Children or adults with speech challenges are nearly always lacking this skill. If they cannot HEAR the sound correctly, they cannot PRODUCE the sound correctly. We constantly assess language when we learn new words for similarities or differences to our current vocabulary.

Auditory Closure

Filling in the missing pieces of sounds or words
If a child or adult is not processing correctly or at a much slower speed than the sound is coming at them, they are always lagging behind and therefore miss some of the conversation. They might only get part of the instruction, or only the first part because the rest is missed while they are processing the first portion. For these people, they have to "fill in the blanks" for the parts they did not hear or process. Sometimes, it explains why, figuratively speaking, a child can hear "1+1" but come up with “7!”
Auditory Pattern Recognition Determine similarities and differences in patterns of sounds. Once again, a skill that is often missing in children or adults with speech challenges. Auditory Memory To sequence sounds, words or other meaningful combinations includes: immediate, working and short term memory, take in auditory information, process, store and recall it. If any of these steps are failing then a child or adult will have poor auditory memory (being able to remember things they hear in contrast to things they see - visual memory).

Auditory Cohesion

A higher level task that involves the ability to understand the meaning, abstraction, intention or verbal communication.
It is very common for autistic children not to have this skill. They are the word content dictating the meaning of the sentence. For example, saying "good grief” in exclamation will often invoke a response like "why is grief good?" It often translates into these children not having a sense of humour because they cannot see the "intent" of the meaning behind the words. With use of The Listening Program, this commonly improves quite quickly.

It also means that autistic children or others with social and emotional challenges cannot show emotion towards loved ones. They can say the words but the "intent" or emotion behind it is not there.