Can you hear me?
Are you listening?
Are these questions the same thing? It may seem so but there is a very big difference between hearing noise and listening to noise. The former is passive, the latter is active.
Children with sensory processing disorder who also have an auditory processing disorder can hear just fine but their ears aren’t tuned in to listening to everything being said – or every note in music being played. When you ask them a question, they may have missed the first part and have only heard the last part, or they may still be processing the first part and missed the last part. Or when hearing music, they may be only processing the certain notes and not others.
It can be very frustrating for a parent or teacher to have a child always respond “What?” to every instruction or request. Patience is the key here, and keeping in mind that the child isn’t trying to be annoying, he simply has a handicap. And just like you wouldn’t get annoyed quickly with somebody who wears hearing aids and keeps saying “What?” it’s the same thing here.
Children with sensory processing disorder are usually very visual and that is their strong point in learning and comprehending. Using visual aids to teach is easier on the adult and easier on the child. It cuts out all that processing work that goes so quickly via eye and so slowly via ear.
The first step you want to take to make sure your child is listening in order to understand and not simply hearing your words, is to connect with eye contact. Call his name, and make sure he is looking at you when you speak. Tell him before you begin that you need to make sure he is paying attention to what you have to say. When you have his attention, keep your message short and simple. A direct instruction of what you expect him of him will go a lot further than you telling him what you don’t want of him. Lastly, ask him to repeat what you said and make sure he understood. This may all seem dauntingly superfluous but when you get into the habit you’ll see how effective it is and that it doesn’t take up much more time than the regular conversation you’d have with any kid.
Auditory processing disorder is closely linked with both the vestibular and visual sense. When one is off kilter, chances are the others will be as well.
There are many activities and listening programs designed to help auditory processing disorder.