Auditory processing is the ability to recognize, interpret, and analyze spoken language. Strong auditory processing skills are critical components of two different activities in the classroom: following a teacher’s instructions and successfully interacting with peers.
Children with strong auditory processing skills are able to respond immediately and appropriately to a teacher’s direction or request.
Children with weak auditory processing skills often rely on visual cues from others to help them guess about what to do or how to behave. (These visual clues may be peering at a friend’s worksheet to see how another child is completing the work or watching other children go to their cubbies and begin putting on their jackets, for example.) As they search for visual clues, they may seem confused or distracted and often have delayed responses to verbal instructions.
After a few weeks in school, it is common for classmates to recognize a friend’s deficit and begin to repeat the teacher’s direction for the struggling child or help guide him in the right direction. This may temporary hide a child’s weak auditory processing skills, but the child’s confidence in the classroom will diminish when he consistently feels lost and confused.
Auditory processing skills are utilized in the classroom on a daily basis, constantly being tested and honed. When children begin preschool, they are expected to follow two-step commands (such as, “put on your jacket and line up by the door”) and understand verbal directions from their teachers and peers. By kindergarten, children are expected to have honed their auditory processing skills to the point where they can follow multi-step directions and mediate disagreements with their classmates without a teacher’s assistance.