Auditory processing or listening skills involve more than just hearing. It is a sensory process that uses the mechanics of hearing while integrating sound. Ever heard the expression “music to my ears?” Well, even music can have altering effects on the nervous system. But, as adults we can dramatically impact the ability of our children (and other adults) not only to hear but also to listen and process. To do so, though, you must become aware of your own skills as well. Let’s take a look at some tricks that can really make a difference.
1. Check Your Child’s Hearing
Do you hear? First, make sure your child’s hearing is A-Okay. Get a check up from a good audiologist. They can investigate whether a hearing problem is a mechanical issue. If all checks out well, you may want to try some hearing games. My favorite is “hide the timer.” Take an ordinary timer, set it for two minutes. Go find a hiding spot for it. When it goes off, have your child “go find the timer.” You will be amazed at how focused and oriented their listening skills will become in just minutes. Kids love this game!
2. Use Audio Books
Audio books are wonderful for kids. You can download them, purchase them or borrow from a library. Use them at home or in the car. I suggest audio books as the book itself encourages focusing on the recording, but along the same lines, you can use just plain audio (books, music, etc.) with great results.
3. Follow the Directions
This game is great for children with listening challenges. Select a number of objects. The more sensory, the better. Place the objects in another room. Look at your child and tell him to go find the objects. For example, “Go find the boat, car, bell, ring and fish.” Your child will then go to the room and pick out those items (from a pile of miscellaneous objects) and bring them back…or not. I suggest having him find a number of objects based on his age. For example, a five-year-old will go find five objects.
4. Lower Your Voice
Watch how soft or how loud your voice is when you speak. Are you in another room? Are you yelling? Modulate your voice. And, if you are not sure, ask your children if they have a hard time hearing you or whether you speak too loudly. As a young child, my ears used to vibrate at the dinner table from everyone talking at once. If you see your child covering her ears, the noise level may be too high.
5. Whole Body Listening
Work with your family members and children on “whole body listening.” When someone is talking, encourage the listener to face the speaker, so his or her feet, knees, hips, shoulders and face are looking at the talker. Then the speaker knows they are getting your attention and the listener can be a more conscious recipient. Be sure you model this behavior. If you have a cell phone that is occupying you, you are not only listening but you are modeling less-than-stellar listening habits. You can do better! Put your phone down, face your child and really listen.
There are great tools for encouraging auditory processing but modeling good listening behavior is a great place to start.