Students with Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) have significant difficulties in identifying and discriminating sounds despite having normal peripheral hearing. These students often have reading difficulties due to significantly poor phonological awareness, decoding ability and grapheme knowledge. Time and again a student with Auditory Processing Disorder will lack the necessary reading foundation skills that are essential in becoming a strong reader.
Diagnosis is the essential first and most important step in successfully teaching a student with Auditory Processing to read. The sooner a child with Auditory Processing Disorder is given proper reading interventions, particularly in the very early grades, the more likely it is that they will have fewer or milder difficulties in reading later in life. A child with Auditory Processing that is not identified until the third grade or later is already years behind his or her classmates. The entire reading foundation needs to be taught at this point. This is a gap that must be closed if the child is ever to catch up with his peers. The best intervention is prevention in kindergarten or remediation beginning in the first grade.
Intensive Reading Instruction
For the child diagnosed with Auditory Processing Disorder that is already behind his peers in reading, intervention will need to be delivered with great intensity. Keep in mind that this child is behind his classmates and must make more progress if he is to ever catch up. The rest of the class does not stand still to wait, they continue forward. Taking a few lessons once or twice a week will never give the student with Auditory Processing the opportunity to catch up. He must make a giant leap; if not, he will always remain behind.
A child with Auditory Processing Disorder who is not identified early may require as much as 150 to 300 hours of intensive instruction if he is ever going to close the reading gap between himself and his peers. The longer identification and effective reading instruction are delayed, the longer the child will need to catch up. In general, it takes 100 hours of intensive instruction to progress one year in reading level. The sooner this remediation is completed, the sooner the child can progress forward with his peers.
High Quality Reading Instruction
Teaching a child with Auditory Processing how to read needs to be provided by a highly qualified teacher. A teacher’s knowledge of how children learn to read as well as her experience teaching a specific program will ultimately determine the success of the child. These students will need a very structured, systematic, cumulative, repetitive and multisensory teaching method such as the Orton-Gillingham approach. By using a multisensory approach the student will be able to learn using the visual and kinesthetic modalities while simultaneously strengthening the auditory channels.
In Orton-Gillingham, the phonemes are introduced in a systematic, sequential and cumulative process. The Orton-Gillingham teacher begins with the most basic elements of the English language. Using repetition and the sequential building blocks of our language, phonemes are taught one at a time. This includes the consonants and sounds of the consonants. By presenting one rule at a time and practicing it until the student can apply it with automaticity and fluency, students with Auditory Processing Disorder have no reading gaps in their word-decoding skills. As the students progress to short vowels, they begin reading and writing sounds in isolation. From there they progress to digraphs, blends and diphthongs.
Students with Auditory Processing are taught how to listen to words or syllables and break them into individual phonemes. They also take individual sounds and blend them into a word, change the sounds in the words, delete sounds, and compare sounds. For example, “…in the word steak, what is the first sound you hear? What is the vowel combination you hear? What is the last sound you hear? Students are also taught to recognize and manipulate these sounds. “…what sound does the ‘ea’ make in the word steak? Say steak. Say steak again but instead of the ‘st’ say ‘br.’- BREAK!
Every lesson the student learns is in a structured and orderly fashion. The student is taught a skill and doesn’t progress to the next skill until the current lesson is mastered. As students learn new material, they continue to review old material until it is stored into the student’s long-term memory. While learning these skills, students focus on phonemic awareness. There are 181 phonemes or rules in Orton-Gillingham for students to learn. Advanced students will study the rules of English language, syllable patterns, and how to use roots, prefixes, and suffixes to study words. By teaching how to combine the individual letters or sounds and put them together to form words and how to break longer words into smaller pieces, both synthetic and analytic phonics are taught throughout the entire Orton-Gillingham program.
Students with Auditory Processing Disorder need more structure, repetition and differentiation in their reading instruction. They need to learn basic language sounds and the letters that make them, starting from the very beginning and moving forward in a gradual step by step process. This needs to be delivered in a systematic, sequential and cumulative approach. For all of this to “stick” the students will need to do this by using their eyes, ears, voices, and hands.