How Sensory Processing
Can Affect Auditory Or
Children who have Sensory Processing
Disorder will almost always have, to various
degrees, some level of auditory or visual processing deficits.
No child is born with perfect auditory processing. This is a learned,
developed and acquired skill. They also are not born with perfect visual
processing. It must develop over time, it must integrate, in both areas.
When they are very young, it is not abnormal to see these problems. It
becomes an issue usually, as they become reading age, and you see
difficulties arise from inefficient processing in either or both of these
An Audiologist cannot perform a reliable Auditory Processing Evaluation
until the child is seven years old, and developmentally at least halfway
through the first grade. However, a developmental opthamologist may
be able to identify visual processing disorder with a much younger child.
There is much intervention that can be done in the interim, to aid them in
developing more efficient processing prior to school age. During the course
of your SPD child’s normal sensory diet activities, and during the routine
of your day, a parent can help with either of these issues. By the time a
child can be reliably tested, a therapist and parent can already have
made considerable progress.
When you speak to a child that seems not
to hear you, even though their hearing has been checked and was within
normal limits, gently touch a shoulder, or crouch down in front of them,
and speak directly to them. They may have to turn their head to listen to
you. This does not necessarily mean there is an issue with eye contact. It
can simply mean it is too much stimulation to watch your face
and listen at the same time. It becomes a cognitive response, not an
automatic, associative one.
Think of this in adult terms, and you'll understand. You are driving your
car, the radio is on, the kids are talking, and you are doing fine.
Driving is automatic. (It's an associative,
task.) You adjust the mirror, turn the radio station, tell the little
darlings to settle down. No problem. You can drive in the middle of your
normal chaos without really thinking much about it, right? Then a
thunderstorm hits. Driving gets tricky, you suddenly can't see, even
though your windshield wipers are going full speed. What do you do?
"KIDS! BE QUIET!! I’m trying to drive, here!" You lean forward, hands
the wheel, with your full and focused attention suddenly on your driving.
Now, it has become a deliberate focused (cognitive) task.
This is what it's like for our kids to LISTEN. Many of them have to give
listening their complete, undivided attention to be able to accomplish it.
They may look away, trying to process exclusively what they are hearing.
Not only do they frequently hear garbled sounds, and miss certain words,
and sounds, but sometimes processing is delayed, so they may not actually
register what you said for moments or minutes.
Can we understand, and give them a minute to respond? If we understand, we
We can also understand that when we give them multiple directions, that
may be asking for more than they can give. They just can't. So, we give
them one direction, then wait to make sure they understand what we said,
and what we mean. When you see a pattern of correct responses to one
direction, then go to two.
We can teach them to remind themselves as they walk away, what they are
trying to remember. Repeatedly whisper the directions to themselves. "Ok,
first I am going to wash my hands, and next brush my teeth. Wash my hands,
brush my teeth. Wash my hands, brush my teeth." Whisper along
with them, until they get it, that it's okay to remind ourselves. Use the words,
FIRST, NEXT, and LAST to help them remember the order of things. There are
many ways we can help them to develop more efficient processing long
before testing can be completed.
Their eyes get tired, they may get very
frustrated if they are forced to read, or look for lengthy periods of time
at anything. Visual tracking (eyes moving smoothly from left to right) can
seriously interfere with reading. Things can easily be worked into a daily sensory
diet, and do feel comfortable asking your OT for particulars about your
own child. Tossing a ball. Catching a nerf ball while swinging. Horizontal
swinging in a net swing. Any vestibular input motions. Hitting a ball on a
T-Ball stand. Any activities that make the eyes track, especially while
something is in motion.
There is more to visual processing than we can even imagine. Sensitivity
to noises, oculomotor control, sensitivity to light. Your child’s
therapist should help you discover which activities your child needs to
address their particular issues. It is very important to learn, and
practice at home these activities with your child, as frequently as you
If you go to the gym once or twice a
week, do you see rapid changes, and
weight loss that amazes you? Probably not. But if you worked out every
day.... what changes might you see then? Exercising your muscles to make
stronger is very much the same as exercising the entire nervous system to
about a stronger, more efficiently processing sensory system. Our children
exercise their senses.
Copyright © Michelle Morris. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author:
Michelle Morris is the mother of six, and parent of a child with a
Sensory Processing Disorder. She
is whole heartedly dedicated to promoting awareness and advocacy for families
with SPD children. She has published over 30 articles supporting and
educating parents about SPD.
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