Autism is a developmental disorder that affects social communication, interaction, and behavior. One characteristic of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is auditory processing difficulties. Children with ASD often struggle to make sense of sounds, speech, and language. This can create challenges in daily activities, such as learning, communicating, and participating in social interactions. In this blog, we will explore the top challenges children with autism face regarding auditory processing skills.
Understanding Language: Children with Autism may have difficulties understanding and interpreting spoken language. They may struggle to communicate their feelings, thoughts, or needs, leading to social isolation. Furthermore, children with autism may be unable to follow instructions or comprehend a conversation, resulting in academic challenges such as reading, writing, and spelling. This can often lead to behavior challenges such as anxiety or frustration.
Sensory Overload: Children with Autism may be easily overwhelmed by sensory input, including loud sounds. This can cause them to become anxious or agitated, resulting in difficulty concentrating or engaging in social settings. Sensory processing difficulties can also lead to a heightened stress response for children with ASD, which may further hinder their ability to process auditory information.
Difficulty Differentiating Sounds: Filtering out or focusing on particular sounds in a noisy environment can be challenging for children with Autism as they may have difficulty differentiating between sounds and voices in a crowded, loud setting. This can be problematic in a classroom setting, where they may miss important instructions from the teacher, or in social interactions, where they may misinterpret the context of a conversation.
I have seen this issue with kiddos who need window shades closed, a quiet environment, and little physical props in the room to focus on the auditory input. This is disruptive to standard social patterns, as managing this level of control over the environment for extended periods is often challenging. Therefore, learning, practicing, and strengthening auditory processing skills are essential for daily life activities.
Delayed Processing Speed: Children with Autism may have difficulties processing and responding to auditory stimuli due to a processing speed delay. This means they may take longer to process what is being said. This can exacerbate social difficulties, as the child may appear disengaged or uninterested in what others say, leading to further social isolation. While in college I will never forget one of my professors telling us to count to 10 after asking a child a question or making a request. She said that for us it would be a challenge but it might very well be what that child needs to process the auditory input of speech. It is also important to note that repeating something to a child who has delayed processing speed may cause their processing to restart each time it is repeated and can cause overwhelm and frustration to the child. So, take a moment to give these kiddos time to process.
Echolalia: Echolalia is a common characteristic in many children with Autism. This is repeating words or phrases, which can be immediate or delayed. Children with echolalia may repeat words or phrases without understanding their meaning or in an attempt to join a conversation without having the social skills to do so. This can create challenges in social communication as others may not understand what the child is trying to say, leading to frustration and further social isolation.
While working with kiddos with echolalia, using over-learn phrases can teach training behaviors needed to break this pattern and create opportunities for this child to practice and role-play social skills. Auditory processing involves learning, practicing, and executing appropriate social skills and overcoming echolalic behaviors.
In conclusion, children with Autism face many challenges with auditory processing skills, impacting their communication, learning, and social interaction. Understanding these challenges can lead to greater empathy and support for children living with Autism. By providing tailored support at school and home through visual aids, specialized learning tools, and therapy (music, occupational, speech), children with Autism can develop the skills required to access the same opportunities as their peers.