Sensory Spotlight: Auditory (Sound)

This is the second installment in our 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 seekers may:

  • Seek out noisy or busy environments.
  • Make loud, repetitive, or specific sounds.

Support seekers by:

  • Scheduling time throughout the day to sing, clap, and make noise.
  • Allowing TV and games to be played at an increased, but safe, volume.
  • Keeping headphones or earbuds handy for quiet or boring times, like waiting in line or on long family car trips.

Auditory avoiders may:

  • Seek out quiet or secluded environments.
  • Be bothered by loud, repetitive, or specific sounds.
  • Be startled or frightened by unexpected sounds.
  • Be distracted by background noises others can’t detect.

Support avoiders by:

  • Scheduling quiet times and breaks throughout the day.
  • Encouraging use of earplugs or noise canceling headphones when needed.
  • Giving advanced warning of loud or unexpected sounds whenever possible.
  • Using a fan, white noise, or other soundproofing to muffle background noise.
  • Keeping headphones or earbuds handy for listening to calming sounds while in crowded, noisy environments.

Auditory discrimination challenges may cause a child to:

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

Support discrimination challenges by:

  • Teaching your child to use visual cues, such as signage or other children lining up at the door, to stay safe and know what to do next.
  • Collaborating with your child’s teachers on ways to reinforce key concepts and revisit lectures or lessons (share presentations, audio recordings, notes with key terms).
  • Playing the “same or different game” to practice telling the difference between similar sounding words. (“Ball and fall–are these words the same or different? Now you choose two words and try to trick me.”)