I’ve written elsewhere about my struggle to identify my oldest son’s auditory processing disorder when he was a toddler. Now that he’s been through five semesters of preschool, he has made much progress. He has, in fact, progressed so much that most people can’t tell there is anything wrong! We put him in a mainstream private school this year and his teachers, who have no experience with special needs, can’t even tell. But we at home still know and work with him profusely. For those of you with older preschoolers wondering, here are some things we still notice:
- Still repeats me or himself a lot. (“C and K make the same sounds, Mom, right? C! cuh, cuh, cuh. K! kuh, kuh. They make the same sounds. They’re the same. Aren’t they the same, Mom? You hear how they’re the same?”) He might run a script like this even though I acknowledge him, and from day to day as if he forgot he said it before and I heard him.
- Still describes a lot. Whereas my other preschooler’s vocabulary is more purposeful, my almost 5-year old still labels what he or others are doing. Or what he sees and hears. (“You’re holding your book, Mom?” or “Oh hear the airplane? It’s an airplane! NEERRAaWWW. I hear the airplane. You hear the airplane too, David. Mom, David hears the airplane.”)
- Still has trouble with explanations, especially moral ones. Doesn’t understand abstract talks about hurting other’s feelings, being good when he’s away from home, or other concepts that don’t immediately conjure up a picture. Stares through us a lot if we can’t show him what we mean.
- Mishears. The other day I said, “Let’s have chicken again” to Daddy and he said, “We’re gonna mix it again?” Even with clarification he couldn’t get it. Or realize that what he was saying had no context at the lunch table. Or realize that I hadn’t been talking to him but Daddy.
- Cannot reformulate requests well. When I ask him to tell Daddy something for me, he often needs an exact formulation and will repeat it exactly. He can make up something similar or take liberty in his speech, but not very often.
- Does not introduce new words, formulations, or applications very much. He mostly learns from memorizing things he’s heard before, which after five years is a lot of things. But unlike my two or three year old, I don’t hear him saying new words or formulations at his own will. He is not master of his vocabulary yet.
- Hangs onto old talking habits. He still gets down from the table and comes to find me to say “I’m all done” like he did when he was two. He’ll travel all over the house to find me, just to tell me. When I tell him he doesn’t have to do it anymore, he doesn’t change it—not sure if this is because he doesn’t understand my instruction or he does but can’t internalize it. Other elementary skills we taught him like this pervade.
- Still has trouble distinguishing who I’m talking to, when he needs to answer, when he doesn’t need to answer, when I can’t hear him because it’s noisy or I’m too far away, when he should/shouldn’t interrupt, when his sibling hears but just isn’t answering (perhaps because he said something that does not necessitate an answer, like “I’m coloring now.”). He doesn’t “read” verbal cues very well through my face, gestures, or social context.
- Needs acknowledgment all the time in order to stop repeating (i.e. “I hear you,” “ok,” “yes,” etc).
Noticing these things has become easier since his two younger brothers don’t have those problems, or at least not to the same degree. Also, as our oldest has gotten older, the problem has crystallized whereas his strengths have gotten stronger—so the “holes” in his education show more, in a sense. We are no longer worried that he has autism, Asperger’s, or low I.Q. as we did when he was two and the behavior was so confusing. He has now left the formative stages of development enough to see where problems have gone and stayed. The bad news is that he doesn’t seem to have gained the essential skill of discriminating syllables that he hears, so that many sentences don’t make sense. I think he hears words as all run together, instead of as individual words, so he makes up things to fit what he thinks he heard. But the good news is, he’s onto the problem and so are we! The good news is that for auditory processing kids, that they make much progress and can leave a large chapter of their delayed history behind. Hooray!
Just for posterity, here are a list of verbal things he can now DO!
- pronoun incorporation and reversal (I, me, you, us, we, etc)
- at least some past and future tense
- difference between boys, girls; using his/her
- use of intermediary words like “have” “to” “suddenly”
- understanding of sequence words (now, later, soon, next time)
- relay a message, recall a response
- tell what did/didn’t happen in good detail
- ask for help
- ask what something means, or just “what?” if mishearing
- carry out more complicated instructions
- narrate the steps to something well while reasoning (i.e. how to tell time, how to tie a shoe)
- is no longer dependent on visual schedules or cues
- is no longer repetitive in his play, behaviors, or habits