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Friday, May 22, 2009

Auditory Processing Train of Thought

My son, Josh, needed increased response time when he was younger. When asked a question, he took longer than most to formulate his responses, so often he was skipped over in a group setting. The teacher or coach would ask him something, get no response for several seconds, and move on to someone else. Part of the problem was that Josh gave no indication that he'd heard the question. He did not change his facial expression or otherwise let the speaker know that he was actually thinking about what had been said. It was frustrating to Josh to know the answer but have such a limited window of opportunity to express it that he often was unable to reply in the time allotted. I worked with Josh to develop a few strategies to let the speaker know that he had heard and was processing what was said to formulate a response. The first strategy was to hold up one finger in the "wait a minute" pose, to indicate that he needed a little more time. This was probably the easiest to implement, since it did not require an oral response when Josh was already struggling to formulate a verbal answer. The next strategy was to actually say something like, "Give me a minute, please" or "Could you repeat that?" (This was much preferable to saying, "Huh?" which happened so frequently when he was younger that I screened his hearing multiple times!) This strategy let the speaker know that Josh was intending to answer, and the repetition often helped him and gave him a little more time to process. Josh also learned the strategy of asking for clarification, by simply asking "Are you saying ____?" or "Is this what you mean?". It's also important to teach our auditory processing strugglers to use verbal strategies when they are on the phone, because obviously visual cues like the upheld "hold on" finger won't work. Once when I was on the phone with Josh I asked him a question and he was quiet for so long I wasn't sure he was even still on the phone. I asked if he was still there and he told me, "Yes, Mom. But my train of thought is still boarding." I've also noticed that Josh's train of thought will sometimes derail entirely if he is interrupted during the boarding process. When that happens, often by well-meaning people trying to help him out or speed things along, Josh's train has to go back to the beginning and start all over again. So instead of moving things along more quickly, it actually backfires and takes even longer. This is where it's helpful to teach our kids the gestural cues as well as verbal scripts so they will be less likely to be interrupted and the train of thought can actually leave the station.

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