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Thursday, January 07, 2010

Turn Your Recorder On

My son, Josh, and my youngest daughter, Beckie, both have auditory processing difficulties. Although when they were officially evaluated by an audiologist they had some differences in the auditory tasks in which they struggled, they both demonstrated poor working memory. This means that although their hearing acuity is fine, they process the incoming auditory input in an atypical manner and they are unable to hold information in their minds long enough to remember it all and act on it. So they might remember the first thing they heard, or the last thing they heard, but if it's a long segment they are likely to lose information. I used strategies like pairing visual information with auditory information, and I utilized gestures and demonstrations nearly all the time. I had them look at me before I gave them directions. I had them repeat back to me what they heard so I would know if they were not complying with me or if they never got the information in the first place. This is an important strategy for parents and teachers, because you should not be disciplining a child for not doing what you've asked if he never received the information completely in the first place. I also did activities specifically to work on improving auditory memory and attention. One activity I did with all my children was have them repeat back exactly what I said to them, increasing the length of the segment a little at a time. For example, I would say something like, "The cat walked to his bowl." We would practice that until they could say say it verbatim. The next sentence would be, "The white cat walked to his empty bowl." The next sentence might be, "The white cat slowly walked to his empty bowl, hoping to find it full of food." This stretched their attention span and challenged their auditory memory skills a little at a time. I also reminded the children to make a mental picture about what they were hearing, since the internal visual cues would help them remember details. One day, while doing this activity, I noticed that Josh was tapping himself on the temple every time I started with, "Ready? Listen to this." I thought to myself, "Great! Now on top of the AD/HD, sensory processing difficulties and auditory processing problems, I've given this kid tics!" I wasn't sure I really wanted to know the answer, but I finally asked Josh if he realized he was tapping himself on the head every time it was his turn to repeat something. He promptly said, "Yes! I'm turning my recorder on!" My little hands-on guy could relate to pushing a button to record something, so he had implemented a tactile strategy for himself. (Whew! Big sigh of relief for me since his head tapping wasn't caused by tics after all and I hadn't done anything to cause them or mess up my kid!) Once a child comes up with their own strategy, we can use it knowing that it makes sense to them. After Josh showed me that he identified with "turning the recorder on" I generalized that strategy for other listening tasks. When teaching any subject, I would prompt Josh to turn his recorder on because the next point was very important. Before giving him a multi-step direction, I would prompt him to turn his recorder on and picture himself doing the task. His strategy became my strategy with him, because Josh taught me something that worked for him.

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