Message For Teachers

By far, the most frequent question that I get from teachers is, “How do I know if my struggling students are struggling because of an auditory processing problem?” The best way for me to answer that is to share information with them from what I know and let them determine if what I know matches what they are observing.


  1. Research that was conducted many years ago when we were first realizing that reading problems were auditory based and not so much visually based told us that 92% of students struggling with effectively learning to read have some level of auditory processing problem with 6% experiencing visual problems and 2% experiencing both visual and auditory. Based on that information, it is safe to say that if the student(s) of concern is/are struggling with reading, whether it be mild, moderate, or severe, it is very likely that the problem has an auditory processing base and can be easily treated.
  2. Auditory processing problems sometimes occur in the presence of other learning problems. The most important thing to remember is that once the auditory processing problem is treated, the other problems may not turn out to be as severe as first thought or may disappear because of being a result of the auditory problem. It is like treating anything, once you treat the underlying cause, other symptoms improve or disappear.
  3. It is not uncommon for a student with auditory processing problems to:
    1. not be willing to volunteer to answer questions or give verbal information in class
    2. not want to be first in line for fear of having missed the instructions and therefore not wanting to do the wrong thing
    3. demonstrate signs of having difficulty dealing with change
    4. appear to not be able to work up to his/her potential
    5. seems to need more time to process what was just said to him/her
    6. watch others to see what they are doing before starting to do his/her work
    7. seem to understand information presented to him/her one day and then need to have the information repeated the next.
    8. struggle with learning to read
    9. Sometimes the student with auditory processing problems will be the “bold kid” who takes charge of everything and bosses everyone else around. Remember, there are fewer surprises and fewer chances to fail if you are the person in charge. This student sometimes can be perceived as being the bully when, in the eyes of the student, it is simply a case of survival with his peers.

    The student with auditory processing problems may show several of these characteristic or may demonstrate only one or two. The significant thing to look at here is whether or not the behavior that is concerning you is a consistent pattern for the student you are thinking of. A consistent pattern of unusual behavior may be an indication that the student is trying to deal with an underlying auditory problem where he/she isn't getting auditory information accurately.

  4. Students with auditory processing problems usually have normal hearing. That having been said, it is always important to make sure that a hearing problem isn't causing problems for a struggling student. It isn't uncommon for a student with auditory processing problems to have a history of ear infections but auditory processing problems can come from other sources too, such as heredity, trauma to the head or possibly the ear, illness such as high and prolonged fever that affected the auditory nerve, etc. No matter what the cause, auditory processing problems are a condition that can be successfully dealt with and successfully treated.
  5. Research tells us that somewhere between 3% and 10 % of the general population experiences auditory processing problems, whether mild, moderate, of severe, that interfere with daily functioning. My experience tells me that the number is closer to the 10% level. What I have observed is that if a class has 20 students, most of the time there are 2 students that the teacher reports as having problems with learning and/or reading and suspects an auditory processing problem. If there are more than 23 students in the class, usually the teacher reports there are at least 3 struggling students.
  6. Most of the students I work with who have auditory processing problems have trouble with auditory discrimination, which means that sounds in words don’t always sound the same to them as they do to the other students. For example, one student who was able to overcome his auditory processing problem then reported that his teacher was always saying, “Take your hat off” but to him it sounded like she was saying “Take your head off” and he always thought that was a pretty stupid thing a teacher to be saying to him. I have thousands of other examples of similar situations and the nice thing about it is that those problems are very treatable and when treated, can help a student work up to his/her potential. It all has to do with timing of the auditory message getting to the correct part of the brain.

Thousands of teachers have a positive impact on thousands of students every day. Thank heavens we have teachers who are conscientious enough to want to reach out and investigate ways to help their struggling students.