Sensory Spotlight: Auditory (Sound)

This is the second installment of our nine-part Sensory Spotlight series.

The auditory system is responsible for the body’s ability to perceive, process, and understand sound. Children with auditory processing issues may be able to hear background noises others tune out or can’t detect, have a hard time controlling the volume of their own voices, or experience delays in their speech and linguistic development.

Auditory Seeking Behavior

  • Seeks out noisy or busy environments
  • Makes loud, repetitive, or specific sounds (snapping, clapping, etc.)

How to Support

  • Schedule times throughout the day to sing, clap, and make noise.
  • Allow music and television to be played at an increased, but safe, volume.
  • Keep headphones or earbuds handy and allow listening to music during otherwise quiet or boring times (waiting in long lines, on family car trips, etc.).

Auditory Avoiding Behavior

  • Seeks out quiet or secluded environments
  • Is bothered by loud, repetitive, or specific sounds (appliances, clapping, etc.)
  • Is startled or frightened by unexpected sounds (alarms, laughter, etc.)
  • Is bothered or distracted by background noises others can’t detect

How to Support

  • Schedule quiet times and breaks throughout the day.
  • Encourage using earplugs, earbuds, or noise canceling headphones when needed.
  • Give advanced warning of loud or unexpected sounds whenever possible.
  • Use white noise, a fan, or other soundproofing in the home to muffle background noise.
  • Keep headphones or earbuds handy and encourage listening to calming music or soft sounds in crowded, noisy environments.

Auditory Discrimination Challenges

  • Speaks too loudly or too softly
  • Appears aloof, distracted, or detached from others
  • Appears confused or unresponsive when given directions
  • Has difficulty distinguishing between background and foreground noises
  • Has difficulty distinguishing between similar sounding words (cat, rat, sat, etc.)

How to Support

  • Teach your child to use visual cues to stay safe and know what to do next (look for signage, flashing lights, other children lining up at the door, etc.).
  • Collaborate with your child’s teachers on ways to reinforce key concepts and revisit lectures or lessons (share presentations, audio recordings, notes with key terms, etc.)
  • Play the “same or different game” to help your child practice telling the difference between similar sounding words (“Ball and fall. Are these words the same or different?”).

Keep in mind, many children with SPD demonstrate a combination of sensitivities and seeking/avoiding behaviors, depending on their level of arousal and how familiar they are with their current environment.

Further Reading:

Auditory Sensitivity: 3 Things You Should Know

Assistive Technology for Auditory Processing Disorder

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