Auditory Processing

I’ve been thinking about the whole idea of “auditory processing disorder” and/or “central auditory processing disorder” and how it relates to the right-brained learner.  It appears that at least half the people I meet with right-brained learners think their child also has an auditory processing issue.  So, as always, I’ve been filtering that thought through all the good information I share about the perspective shift on right-brained learning.

Mass institutions of learning generally teach in a left-brained fashion using a left-brained scope and sequence.  The right brained learner has their own preferred scope and sequence, but it is not well known what that looks like.  In fact, sometimes I think people are completely unaware that right-brained learners would naturaly have their own scope and sequence.  Thus, it is one of my missions in life to share what that scope and sequence looks like, so it can be valued, let alone even recognized.

That said, some people choose to categorize a left-brained learner as “auditory-sequential” and a right-brained learner as “visual-spatial”, based on those attributes being prevalent in the respective learning styles.  I don’t like that differentiation because it assumes right-brained people cannot be auditory learners or left-brained people can’t be visual learners.  I think these are input modalities:  some do well with auditory input, and others do well with visual input.  I have six right-brained children and 1 right-brained husband.  Four of them do well with auditory input (Weston, Eric, Alex, and Joseph).  Three of them do quite poorly (Eli, Adam, and William).  It seems they either do very, very well, or very, very poorly as it pertains to auditory input.

So, does that mean my children who do poorly with auditory input mean they have “auditory processing disorder”?  It is true that they can barely process any auditory information effectively . . . or do they?  I started looking closely, especially as I noticed a few things with myself.  I am a strong left-brained learner.  My daughter is more whole-brained, but learns in a left-brained manner, and mainly uses her visual skills for creating her fantasy novels.  I have noticed lately, when my builder right-brained son, Eli (who doesn’t prefer the auditory input modality), has read things aloud to me from his computer, wanting to ask me a question, I cannot for the life of me process that auditory information without having to get up and go look at the words.  My daughter has mentioned that she cannot concentrate on talks at church without doodling or taking notes (a common way for a right-brained learner to attune to left-brained or non-creative tasks).

So, I started thinking about how schools are set up.  They are lecture based with note taking.  This would go along the lines of how a left-brained person could process auditory information effectively.  If they can write or see words (many times, notes were put on the board or on overheads or in outlines as the lecture was given) as they receive the auditory input, they are able to effectively and efficiently process that information.  Because a right-brained person’s natural gift is not in words, many times those who do not prefer auditory input cannnot take notes and listen at the same time.  However, Eli, who also is a natural at math, he can easily follow a lecture in his math class because the instructor inevitably is working out math problems as she explains.  Thus, a visual that makes sense to my son is hooked to the auditory in order that it makes sense to him and can process it effectively.  If Eli goes to a class at church where the teacher brings in picture visuals and hands-on activities, he processes the auditory information fine.  If they do not, he struggles to pay attention and process the auditory input.

In our instructional world, we tend to use three of our five senses extensively:  auditory, visual, and kinesthetic (touch).  Smell and taste certainly come into play in such professions as cooking and general environmental assessments.  Therefore, I challenge the idea that there are “glitches” in some right-brained learners who do not prefer to process input auditorially.  Eli prefers to process visually and kinesthetically.  That is 2 of the 3.  He can do that third one when paired with one of the other two.  I realize I may be similar.  I need words involved in order to process auditory information, but because our society is set up to favor the left-brained processing structure, I do not need to figure out creative ways to accomplish the ability to process auditory information.

Eli is working out creative ways to accomplish the need to process information auditorially while in college by finding other sources to accomplish the same thing utilizing another of his input modalities.  Taking on-line classes is a great option for him in lecture based classes.  Because auditory input and words go hand in hand, he can take his time reading and processing the information at a pace that works for him.  Yes, he has the option of getting a disability plan in order to tape record his lecture classes, but why?  Eli subconsciously resents the idea that he needs to have a “disability plan” when he feels he is quite capable of learning the information if it is presented in a way that works for him.  So, isn’t the learning environment “disabled”?  It works for certain people, but not for others; yet, if it were structured differently, bringing in all the three input modalities, I think there would be less problems involved with most people.  Eli received a high A for his online class for Psychology quite easily.  And he really enjoyed the material and talked about what he was learning all the time.

The last thought pertains to processing auditory input from a conversation or if a friend or such is explaining something to you.  Then, there is often no visual or kinesthetic hook to the auditory.  I asked Eli how he processes our conversations.  We have had discussions about the idea that looking at someone tells them you are paying attention.  A young person, who attended public school worked for me this summer shadowing my son, William, at a day camp.  It was apparent the first time I gave this young man instructions that he had “ADD” as he would not look at me when I spoke, and would not remember half of what I said to him.  I asked Eli if it would be easier to not look at me when I spoke in order to process the auditory input more easily.  He said it wouldn’t because if he looked off, he might become visually distracted by something and that is when his ears would shut down.  I noticed that exact thing happening to this young man who worked for me.  I told the young man he needed to come up with some strategies to help him, but he has no tools to pull from, and he has just graduated high school with high grades!  After bumping into his mother, she has been concerned that he has relied upon the medication to learn, and after doing a few “placebo experiments” with her son, she has found that he is reliant upon it.

I am grateful for the homeschooling environment.  While young, I could center Eli’s learning around his strengths and his preferred input modalities in order to create a strengths based, gift centered learning environment.  Once he hit around 11-12 years old, his brain shifted once again (as most people do) in order to start taking in more abstract information, which includes having a greater awareness of what is working and not working in one’s life, and being willing and able to partner with a more knowledgeable person in order to create tools and strategies to improve weaknesses as they negatively impact strengths.  (In other words, the improvements or skill development made sense as it related to what he needed to work for him in what areas.)  For conversations, if it is a topic of high interest and background knowledge he already has accumulated, he can hook the auditory conversation to the ready visuals in his mind.  If it is entirely new information being discussed, he has found looking at the person creates the ability for him to concentrate on what is being said.  In real life, I don’t foresee this being a constant need, as the area of work he will go into will be one based on his strengths.  The friends he associates with will be those who have commonalities.

I am more than pleased at how Eli is finding his place in our society, whether it is based on his strengths or his weaknesses.  We live at a time there are many options, and he’s not afraid to take them.  He doesn’t see it as a deficit that he chooses another alternative, but as a smart choice that allows him to enjoy the experience because it is based on areas of strength for him.  In other words, he knows how he learns, and he’s not afraid to use it 🙂

3 responses to “Auditory Processing

  1. Fascinating post. My oldest child, Sarah, (now 15) was diagnosed with CAPD when she was 5 — a diagnosis that was necessary because she was in public school. She partly “matured out” of her APD, after 100s of dollars in evaluations. I have to wonder whether some kids just develop these strengths on a different time table, as you said. Though she and I both have some ongoing auditory processing issues. We have trouble listening if there is any background noise and we need closed captioning to watch movies.

    I often wonder how Sarah will fare in a traditional lecture-style classroom. As you mentioned, there are many options today, so it’s possible to adapt to one’s own learning style even in the college years.

  2. I think you have really touched on important information here. I, too, have been working feverishly to try and figure out ways to improve learning environments. My daughter, 6, is RB, and I am LB. Also, I am a psychometrist (administer neuropsych testing), and I am fascinated with learning more about processing and learning for different people. I often administer the full battery of tests for “diagnosis” of “ADHD/ADD”, and I although I see the commonalities to the patients that my Dr. diagnoses with ADHD, I often disagree. I agree with your views on their learning style versus any need to diagnose them with what is considered a disorder. Though, it is very interesting to see their similarities on the tests.

    I think you are on to something with what you said about needing two input modalities to fully process something properly. I am like you. Even as a strong LB (who is excellent at visual input, as a side note), when someone speaks to me out loud like my husband explaining some bit of programming from his computer, I need to see it to comprehend it fully. My daughter absolutely loves me reading to her (she is RB), but she often does something else while I read, such as play in the bathtub or play with her brother. It makes absolute sense to me when thinking back to our personal experiences, testing with my patients, or in school that using another input/sensory modality allows us as individuals to fully absorb information.

    I would love to hear more about your journey down this road. Any help I can be, just ask!


    Sierra 6, Vincent 1

  3. Agree totally with everything you have said here.

    My mantra with all children is that there is no such thing as the average child!

    A child’s strengths are their strengths. Each child is different and we need to work out how our children work, then help them recognise where their strengths are and work with them and help them work them out for themselves one day!

    Growing up I regularly was told to go to the doctor and get my ears syringed, would always oblige and of course there was nothing wrong. Just my way of learning – not strong auditory but major photographic memory. Did very well at school and exams but often rubbed teachers up the wrong way, sent out of class for a double lesson because I “had naughty eyes” even though I had done nothing wrong.

    I have found with my extremely right brained DS8 that, if you whisper to him, he responds straight away – not just using a soft voice, but actually whispering and no amount of surrounding noise is a problem. Weird huh? People who have totally misunderstand him have tried screaming and shouting to get him to do things. He just doesn’t hear them and they then assume he’s deliberately ignoring them and off it goes on a downward spiral. I keep those people out of his life whilst I can.

    I have a theory that RBers/Gifted/Dyslexic kids have some high functioning neuron firing going on, not just in their brain processes but extrapolated throughout their bodies. It’s not just the brain on fire, but body on fire too.

    Eventually these children will have filled their visual bank warehouses in their brains sufficiently and learnt their own coping mechanisms when they reach the appropriate stage in their development. When this happens then they are able to better control the fires : is it because physically the fires are more in proportion with the size of their bodies or is it the brain matures to be able to cope better? Probably a bit of both.

    Until then, louds noises or complicated facial expressions are very hard to process because they overload whatever senses they do use. Which is why, for example, they won’t look new people in the eye, unless (1) it is someone like them (the fires are in harmony and are familiar) or (2) it is something they are REALLY interested in and it gives them the motivation to deal with the overloads. Eventually my DS8 can look someone in the eye if neither of the above two scenarios apply but this only happens when he has got used to them – perhaps he’s built up enough visual bank references to that person….?

    I find and read that so many RBers/Gifted/Dyslexics also have issues with over-sensitivities relating to the gut (e.g. GF/CF), bowel movements, skin allergies, label rubbing, temperature extremeties, fierce senses of injustice. Co-incidence? I think not!

    Cindy : not sure if you have ever come across this before but DS8 was/is extremely psychic. I believe he just has hugely over-efficient electrical receptors in his brain so he picks up all sorts of messages. This is lessening as he gets older but he has done so much stuff that is inexplicable other than psychic abilities. He asked me why I was having two babies at 9 weeks of pregnancy. On the basis of his past psychic performances I booked a private scan for a couple of days later and he was right. Further on in the pregnancy he used to shush us all while we were, say, disco dancing after bath time and the babies would be extremely active inside the “baby room” (his words). He would ask us if we could hear them talking to each other. This is just the tip of the iceburg and we’re not the only ones who have seen it. It never scared us and we never made him feel weird for it.

    But for me that was just part of his brain on fire and I see his lessening psychic abilities as the process where he and his brain are better able to cope.

    I think that is what happens for all our RBers.

    My 2c for tonightt!

    Katya x